IT IS SAID that “catches win matches”, but that may not be entirely true. If you want to understand why male athletic teams perform so well, you have to look elsewhere – on their glistening bodies and the running rivulets of sweat. Instead of sweating the small stuff, smell it. It is the commingled odour of the sweat, not the blood and tears, which inspires the teamwork that is the stuff of victory. Sweat wins the laurels. Sweat is the basic ingredient of the sweet smell of success. Sweat is what makes the goals score, the Heat rise and the champagne flow. Sweat Spurs on the team. Sweat keeps Manchester United.
Science Now (the daily news service of the journal Science) says, “Take a whiff, men. A chemical component of other guys’ sweat makes men more cooperative and generous, new research says. Thestudy is the first to show that this pheromone, called androstadienone, influences other men’s behaviourand reinforces the developing finding that humans are susceptible and responsive to these chemical signals.”
Researchers from the University of Turku, in Finland, led by evolutionary biologist Markus Rantala, found the effect androstadienone has on men when they carried out tests among computer game players. They discovered that if men breathed in the pheromone they were much more likely to cooperate with players to do better at the game. The researchers speculate that their finding may hark back to a time when cooperation between males conferred asurvival advantage.
It has taken a long time for science to catch up with the conventional wisdom and with what we have known for generations. Certainly when our progenitors were told, “By the sweat of your brows thou shalt eat bread”, the hidden truth was essentially that people had to work together to survive. Or as the Almighty might have said today, “Make them sweat for it.”
Colin Powell understands the sweat factor: “A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.” General Patton did too: “A pint of sweat saves a gallon of blood.” As did General Schwarzkopf: “The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war.” David Hume, the Scottish economist and philosopher, despite being a sceptic, realized almost two hundred years ago how important sweat is to teamwork: “It’s when we start working together that the real healing takes place . . . . It’s when we start spilling our sweat, and not our blood.”
It is interesting, though, that the research about sweat and teamwork came from Finland where sauna is almost a religion. Finland has an average of one sauna per household.
In addition to finding out that sweat helps male bonding, the research has revealed that male sweat helps them to bond with females. Despite what George Carlin, the comedian, said about sweat (“Don’t sweat the petty things and don’t pet the sweaty things”), brain scans of women exposed to male sweat showed that the smell of the “sexy” sweat stimulated different parts of the women’s brains, including the regions linked to emotion, pleasure, sex and reproduction.
A study carried out at the University of Northumbria asked a group of female students to judge the attractiveness of men shown in photos. Another group of women were set the same task – but this time, unknown to them, a cloth soaked in male sweat was hidden nearby. All the men were given higher ratings when the male sweat was nearby. In fact, some perfume companies have even incorporated pheromones into their products, hoping to add an extra emotional punch to colognes and perfumes. A Swedish professor is now making a perfume from the sweat of glass blowers. Maybe it will help you to see through the intentions of other people. He can make it mandatory for Swedish politicians so there will be more transparency in government.
Cosmopolitan magazine also found that female sweat with a little help from some perfumes is also a potent stimulant and advises, “Sometimes, a tiny bit of sweat can help release your sultry powers and reel him in. ‘When I’m out dancing at late night parties, it gets pretty hot and sweaty,’ says Eric, 18. ‘One time, I smelled Glow by J.Lo on a girl, and all I wanted to do was groove closer with her . . . all night.’ Encourage him to work up a sweat too. Research shows that the chemicals in male perspiration stimulate sexual desire in women (no wonder he looks oh so appealing post-exercise).”
According to experts, the top perfume that men go for is Joy by Jean Patou. At US$155 per ounce, the price is nothing to sniff at. However, the reward is that you can then spread joy (or whatever the name is) all you want. In fact, there is a website that offers 150 ways to do it.
• Tony Deyal was last seen talking about the man who put blood, sweat and tears into the opening of his new restaurant. Then the environmental health department closed it down.