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Hot flushes, night sweats, dry skin, tempestuous moods and weight gain — when it comes to menopausal symptoms, you probably think you've heard it all before.
Yet there's one you might not have heard quite so much about, as the evidence around it is mostly anecdotal. But for many women, it's one of the cruellest: discovering that the perfume you've worn your whole life — your signature scent — suddenly smells different, wrong, unbearable.
Why does this happen? To understand, you have to go back to the evolutionary advantages of being able to smell.
'There is good research showing that, when she is menstruating, a woman's sense of smell is more acute at different points in her cycle,' explains London-based hormone specialist, Dr Daniel Sister. And, according to Professor Tim Jacob, who studies the psychophysiology of smell at Cardiff University, there's a very good reason for this.
Role - Selection - Set - Genes - HLA
'Body odour plays a role in mate selection,' he says. 'There are a set of genes, called HLA genes, that control our immune system and, in a complex manner, also determine body odour.
'Mating with someone who has a different immune system to yours is likely to create healthier offspring, and that might explain why women and men tend not to like the smell of people who have similar HLA genes to them.
'Women - Sensitivity - Peaks - Point - Partner
'Women's olfactory sensitivity peaks at the point at which they are ovulating, making them better able to choose a suitable partner at their most fertile.'
High levels of the hormone oestrogen are, as Dr Sister explains, what accounts for the heightened sense of smell: 'Oestrogen has a role to play in more than 400 processes in the body.'
Course - Perspective - Age
Of course, from an evolutionary perspective, as soon as you're beyond reproductive age, it's no longer so important.
As a result, around the menopause when oestrogen levels are diminishing, it would...
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