Do human beings produce substances to attract sexually?

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In the animal kingdom there are chemical signals of the olfactory type, that is, volatile chemical substances with various functions, such as communication, protection and the search for food. For example, there are sexual hormones that indicate the willingness of females or males to mate, said Ricardo Reyes Chilpa, a researcher at the UNAM Institute of Chemistry.

Do human beings also produce substances that attract the opposite sex? According to the UNAM specialist, it is a debate that currently exists in the scientific community.

In 1959 Peter Karlson and Martin Lüscher coined the term pheromone for the first time, a volatile chemical substance that awakens innate behaviors, that is, unlearned behaviors. Its etymological origin comes from the Greek pherein: “carry or transport”, and hormon: “stimulate”. So, pheromone means “carrying a stimulus”.

An example is the famous monarch butterflies, in which the male has specialized organs that secrete aphrodisiac pheromones to attract females.

Interestingly, the pheromones of this species are derived from alkaloids that the male butterflies ingest from some plants; these alkaloids are toxic to other types of organisms, such as birds; They also serve as a defense for butterflies, which is why females prefer to mate with a male that has a high concentration of pheromones, as it indicates that he is well fed.

There are also tracking pheromones, such as those used by ants to make their “paths”; they cut “little leaves” and take them to their nests to grow mushrooms.

“There are really nice little tracking paths so all the ants know where the food is; if we maliciously erase their trail with the shoe, they will not know where to continue”. An artificial trail can also be traced with the pheromone, which is a pyrrole, which the ants follow.
Instead, the bees use a chemical substance as an alarm against a predator: smelling the pheromones stimulates their defense and they gather to attack the invader.

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in humans

In the scientific community there is a debate about whether the human species also emits pheromones. For example, a great opponent is the researcher Richard Doty, who in 2010 published The Great Myth of Pheromones, a book in which he explains why it is not possible.

On the other hand, Tristam Wyatt, professor of zoology at the University of Oxford in England, published in 2015 in the Journal of the British Royal Society the article “The search for human pheromones: the lost decades and the need to return to the principles ”.

In it he explains that in humans the existence of pheromones could be possible, as in other mammals, such as goats and pigs. However, there is no strong evidence from trials, added the university academic.

To affirm that a pheromone exists, it must be shown that there is a physiological response to the smell, isolate and identify the chemical substance, even synthesize the bioactive molecules, as in the case of ants and the trail they leave.

Wyatt explained that in humans, pheromones are more likely to be found in the sebaceous glands. For example, in secretions produced by the glands in the areola of the nipples of mothers who breastfeed their babies. These secretions stimulate the innate sucking of any baby, since it is not a learned behavior, but rather an instinctive one.

Wyatt concludes on the most solid current studies of pheromones in humans: “As you can see, it does not have much to do with the sexual issue, but rather it is related to feeding, in this case of babies.”

“What has been very well demonstrated is the role of pheromones in insects, for example, in ants through tracking to find their food”, concludes the university researcher.

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