Experiments have shown that disgusting odors trigger immune defenses

(ORDO NEWS) — Unpleasant odors make us avoid potentially dangerous objects.

But they affect not only behavior: as soon as the sense of smell notices something disgusting, the immune cells of the oral cavity begin to prepare to neutralize the threat.

Odors are fairly reliable indicators of danger. They can signal the ill health of a person or animal, the presence of toxins.

Unpleasant odors stimulate defensive behavioral responses, causing disgust and avoidance of a potential threat.

But the answer to them is not limited to this. Such aromas immediately trigger an immune response, strengthening the body’s defenses.

Mats Olsson (Mats Olsson) and his colleagues conducted experiments with 36 healthy volunteers of both sexes.

Participants were offered 16 different smells, including four neutral ones (distilled water, mineral oil, etc.) and 12 that usually cause disgust (fermented herring, rotten yeast, skatole, mercaptan, etc.) and in various circumstances can signal spoiled food or about illness.

Volunteers independently assessed the degree of their disgust on a scale from zero to 100.

For a more objective assessment, scientists also collected electromyographic data on the activity of facial muscles in response to a particular smell.

Having determined the attitude of the participants in the experiment to different odors, the scientists again presented them to volunteers and this time received saliva samples.

In it, they determined the concentration of tumor necrosis factor TNF-α , as well as secretory immunoglobulin A ( sIgA ).

TNF-α is a protein secreted by immune cells working in the mouth in response to the appearance of bacteria, stimulating the body’s defenses and preparing to destroy them.

SIgA acts similarly: it is actively produced by mucosal cells, preventing bacteria from attaching and enhancing inflammation.

The work showed that exposure to aversive odors stimulated a rapid and significant increase in TNF-α. This prepares the body to defend against potential danger.

In addition, one of the effects of TNF-α is increased sensitivity to bitter taste, another way to recognize a toxic threat in time. At the same time, scientists did not reveal a significant increase in the concentration of sIgA.


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