How the scent of a man may help keep you young


Having a man about the house may help to keep a woman young and fertile.

Married women go through the menopause two years later on average than those who are single, according to a study.

And it may be the scents produced by their partner that hold back the body clock, researchers believe.

The average age of the menopause - when a woman's ovaries cease to function and oestrogen levels drop, often with unpleasant side-effects such as hot flushes - is between 48 and 52 in Britain.

Previous work on why it arrives earlier for some people has suggested that smoking speeds it up, while those on higher incomes can delay its onset.

In a study, medics from the University of Massachusetts looked at a cross-section of women with an average age of 51, and compared their age at menopause and marital status.

'Women who were single at the time of interview consistently report an earlier age at menopause compared to women who were married,' said Dr Lynette Leidy Sievert, one of the researchers.

While married women went into the menopause at 50 years and three months on average, single women became menopausal at 48.

Other factors including smoking, sexual activity, income levels or using contraceptive pills failed

to explain the difference, the researchers found.

Instead they suggest, in a report in the American Journal of Human Biology, that a husband's pheromones, scents secreted by sweat glands under the arms and which play a part in sexual attraction, may be responsible.

They are believed to alter a woman's production of hormones which in turn would affect the ovaries.

They may also cause women living with men to have more regular menstrual cycles, the report suggests.

David Kelly, an expert in pheromones at the University of Cardiff, said it was clear there was some kind of relationship although the mechanism had yet to be fully explained.

'It is virtually certain that there is chemical communication between men and women that explains a lot of folklore,' he said.

'In Shakespeare's Othello, for example, a handkerchief to be mopped on the brow was given as a love token, and in Wales, the wives of miners on night shifts would put the husband's nightshirt inside the pillow to make them feel better.'

The age of onset of the menopause has a range of health implications.

An increased risk of the bone-thinning disorder osteoporosis has been linked to early menopause, while breast cancer has been associated with its late onset.

Dr John Stevenson, an expert on the menopause at Imperial College, London, said: 'It sounds an interesting idea that has not been previously suggested.'

But he said more research would be needed to establish such a link.

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