Just in time for Valentines Day (rolls eyes), the NY Times has a fascinating article about microbes and love. Susan Erdman, a microbiologist at M.I.T. says that microbes can make our skin smooth and hair shiny, making us more attractive to others.
Male mice fed probiotics from human breast milk even developed oversized testicles, which they liked to show off. Control yourselves boys!.
When given to female mice, they were less susceptible to inflammatory diseases, and oxytocin hormone levels increased.
Oxytocin helps mammals bond and fall in love.
Dr. Erdman believes that people’s natural selection for mates isn’t only based on human genes, but also the microbiome of a person. A microbiome attempts to keep a host healthy, attractive, so that they can mate with another person and create a future host.
The article mentions a Swiss study where women attempted to choose the best mate by smelling sweaty shirts. They did end up choosing the most genetically fit mates, but in a twist, it’s impossible to tell human genetic information from sweat alone because it doesn’t smell by itself. Sweat smells because of the microbes feeding off it.
The article states it’s unclear how the women determined the best mates from the smell of sweat being fermented by microbes, but I think they must be able to smell the genetic material not of humans, but of microbes.
Throughout the history of evolution, I believe that microbes created humanity. Dr. Erdman would seem to agree, saying, “microbes invented mammals.”
If it is the case that microbes created mammals like humans, and they are critical to the creation of oxytocin so that humans pair up, and reproduce offspring, my guess is that being attracted to a person’s smell is more like being attracted to the smell of their microbiome.
-Reid B. Kimball
Want to learn more about the gut microbiome? Watch WANTED: Crohn’s End, a documentary about empowered patients with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis who struggle to use controversial alternative treatments when nothing else works.