Worried you’ve got ‘old people smell’? Experts reveal how to reduce natural odour of ageing skin


If you’ve noticed a musty odour hanging around lately, it may disturb you to know that it could be ‘old people smell’ – a genuine phenomenon that can afflict people from the age of 40 onwards.    

As a person approaches middle age, they are more likely to start suffering from a distinctive whiff which is often described as a greasy or grassy odour. 

One study suggested that the pong is caused by the emission of a skin gas, known as 2-Nonenal, which is a byproduct of the normal ageing process. 

But experts from the University of Chichester and Tokai University in Japan claim there is a measure you can take to reduce these skin emissions by up to 80 per cent – and thereby curb the smell. 

They discovered that eating blackcurrants in the form of a supplement can help people prevent that offensive hum often associated with elderly folk.

Mark Willems, professor of sports and exercise physiology at the University of Chichester, explains that as we age, cells in the body and in sebaceous glands under the skin come under attack.

This is due to a process called lipid peroxidation – the breakdown of fats – caused by oxidative stress, where the body produces a surplus of harmful free radicals.

Due to the fact blackcurrants are a powerful antioxidant, they protect cell health and reduce lipid peroxidation, which the researchers believe led the decrease in gas emissions.

‘We looked at the production of this particular gas, which isn’t produced by 20-year-olds, but starts at 40 and is linked with body odour, as a consequence of lipid peroxidation in the glands that produce oily substances for our skin,’ Mr Willems explained.

‘It’s a pure oxidative stress reaction. We know the antioxidants in blackcurrant help to neutralise oxidative stress and they clearly reduced skin emissions in this study.’

He added that to see a reduction of up to 80 per cent is ‘amazing’.

‘It shows that blackcurrant can help protect against the ageing process and disrupt the normal situation that occurs with oxidative stress,’ he concluded.

The research involved a group of 14 individuals aged between 49 and 64 years old, who took a powdered blackcurrant supplement for seven days.

A cap was fitted to capture skin gas emissions from the base of the neck.

The findings showed the berry reduced skin emissions by 28 per cent on average, with reductions of up to 69 per cent in six participants, and up to 82 per cent in a further two individuals.

The blackcurrants themselves were grown in New Zealand – and because of the Southern Hemisphere’s intense UV light, this produces unusually high levels of protective and health-giving nutrients compared with berries grown elsewhere.

The key ingredients are anthocyanins – pigments in the fruit’s skin responsible for their dark purple colouring – which belong to a group of flavonoids called polyphenols and possess high levels of antioxidants.

The research was welcomed by Nicki Bundock, of Surrey-based firm CurraNZ, a supplier of New Zealand blackcurrant supplements.

‘Excessive body odour can have a huge impact on a person’s self esteem and the problem increases as we age,’ Nikki said.

‘But this study suggests large decreases in body odour in middle age and older people can be achieved through simple dietary changes.

‘Blackcurrant supplement should be considered by anyone whose wellbeing has taken a knock because of insecurities about their odour.’

According to the NHS, things that might exacerbate body odour further include exercise, hot weather, hormonal changes, being overweight and having an underlying medical condition such as diabetes, kidney disease or liver disease.

Certain types of medicine, such as antidepressants, may also make body odour worse.

And it’s something that Britain, as a nation, is concerned about. A survey by fabric conditioner brand Lenor, unveiled in March this year, found 30 per cent of British adults had avoided talking to someone amid body odour fears.

One in 10 said they had avoided asking someone out on a date, while a further 40 per cent avoided close proximity with others.

For more information about the New Zealand blackcurrant supplement, which are currently reduced from £29 to £21.75 for a pack of 30 capsules, visit https://curranz.com.


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