Do Older People Have More Body Odor?

An older woman stands amid a bunch of flowers.
Studies show that body odor changes as we age. (Image credit: Woman and flowers photo via Shutterstock)

"The Healthy Geezer" answers questions about health and aging in his weekly column.

Question: Do older people have more body odor?

Answer: It does seem that seniors do stink more than younger people. Aren't we lucky?

It's true that one recently found substance in human body odor, called 2-Nonenal, tends to increase with aging, according to a study from researchers in Japan published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.

The body odor of people between the ages of 26 and 75 was analyzed. The researchers found that 2-Nonenal, which has an unpleasant greasy and grassy odor, was detected only in the participants ages 40 or older.

So, what causes body odor (aka B.O.)? Most often, it's the bacterial breakdown of sweat that causes an odor. Perspiration, itself, is practically odorless.

Sweating helps maintain your body temperature, hydrates your skin and balances your body fluids. There are two types of sweat glands: eccrine glands and apocrine glands. Eccrine glands are located over most of your body. Apocrine glands develop in hairy sections of your body.

Eccrine glands secrete perspiration that is composed primarily of water and salt. Apocrine glands secrete a fatty sweat. The bacterial breakdown of apocrine sweat is what usually causes an odor. [7 Ways the Mind and Body Change With Age]

Over-the-counter (OTC) antiperspirants and deodorants are effective cures for most body odor. There are prescription antiperspirants if the OTC products don't work.

Antiperspirants contain aluminium-based compounds that temporarily block sweat pores. Deodorants eliminate odor but not perspiration; they're usually alcohol-based and turn your skin acidic, making it less attractive to bacteria. Deodorants often contain fragrances, too, to mask odor.

You can reduce body odor in the following ways:

  • Shower or bathe every day. This reduces the bacteria on your skin.
  • Dry your feet thoroughly after showering. Microorganisms love moisture between your toes.
  • Wear clothing--especially socks--made of cotton and wool; avoid synthetics. Moisture-wicking athletic clothing is good when you are exercising and sweating a lot. Change socks at least once a day.
  • Wear shoes made of leather. Natural materials allow your feet to breathe and stay dry. Also, rotate your shoes, so they have enough time to dry.
  • Go barefoot when you can, or remove your shoes occasionally.
  • Apply antiperspirants nightly.
  • Consider relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation or biofeedback. These can help you control the stress that triggers perspiration.
  • Change your diet. If foods or beverages cause your perspiration to smell, consider eliminating them. Avoid foods with strong odors, such as garlic and onions.

If you would like to read more columns, you can order a copy of "How To Be A Healthy Geezer" at

All rights reserved © 2014 by Fred Cicetti

Fred Cicetti is a contributing writer for Live Science who specializes in health. He has been writing professionally since 1963. Before he began freelancing, he was a reporter, rewriteman and columnist for three daily newspapers in New Jersey: The Newark News, Newark Star-Ledger and Morristown Record. He has written two published novels:" Saltwater Taffy—A Summer at the Jersey Shore," and "Local Angles—Big News in Small Towns."