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Pheromones: Potential Participants in Your Sex Life

WebMD Feature

You've never heard of pheromones? Well, it's time to learn about the part they play in your sex life, because it could be substantial. The concept of a human pheromone, or sexual scent of attraction, has been debated and researched for years.

In most animals, the relationship between pheromones and mating is straightforward. Sea urchins, for example, release pheromones into the surrounding water, sending a chemical message that triggers other urchins in the colony to eject their sex cells simultaneously.

Human pheromones, on the other hand, are highly individualized, and not always noticeable. In 1986 Dr. Winifred Cutler, a biologist and behavioral endocrinologist, codiscovered pheromones in our underarms. She and her team of researchers found that once any overbearing underarm sweat was removed, what remained were the odorless materials containing the pheromones.

Dr. Cutler's original studies in the '70s showed that women who have regular sex with men have more regular menstrual cycles than women who have sporadic sex. Regular sex delayed the decline of estrogen and made women more fertile. This led the research team to look for what the man was providing in the equation. By 1986 they realized it was pheromones.