Most of us will have had the smell of ourfeet compared to a specific food at some point: cheese.This is no mere coincidence. However, what we aren’t aware of is that this smell can actually be explained by a rather fascinating scientific reason.
According to a study published by a popular French science magazine, there is a genuine connection between the odour of our feet and that of cheese. To better understand this connection, we’ve got to dive a bit deeper, and by deeper we mean between the toes. If you haven’t already guessed by now, feet are more or less heaven for bacteria. After a long day spent trapped inside socks and shoes, they become a dark and humid breeding ground for micro-organisms like bacteria.
If we haven’t scared you off already, feet also provide the ultimate buffet of dead skin, sweat, and sebum which incidentally are some of the bacteria’s favourite foods. Thanks to these ideal conditions, the nasty bacteria are able to truly thrive. Bacteria doesn’t come alone however – they bring all sorts of odours. Certain organic acids and compounds rich in sulphur and nitrogen are released as a by-product of their eating. And these are what we can blame for thesefamous odours.
But where does cheese come into all of this?
You have to keep in mind that this process is reliant on conditions as well as the individual – not allfeet will host the same bacteria. However, one type of bacteria, in particular, is present most of the time: bacteria from the genus Brevibacteriaceae. One main compound produced by this famous bacteria is isovaleric acid, which is also involved in the manufacturing process of some notoriously smellycheeses like munster and camembert. So it’s no real surprise that cheese is the first thing that comes to mind when we imagine the inside of a boot!
The story doesn’t stop there as the perception of odours varies greatly from person to person. For some, the smell of well-aged cheddar or a mouldy blue cheese is enough to make you salivate, while for others, it’s enough to send them running in the other direction. As stupid as it sounds, the same rings true for feet. The difference can be chalked up to anatomy and the differences in our olfactory systems. Hidden within the nasal cavities are hundreds of nasal receptors that are responsible for recognising odourmolecules and sending the information to the brain. These receptors aren’t exactly the same across humans however, and some people have been found to have a higher or lower sensitivity. The brain also plays a large role in the process as well since it is responsible for the complex analysis of these smells thanks to the help of the areas in the brain like the piriform cortex and the olfactory bulb.
All in all, any smell can evoke a certain emotional response and lead to the creation of a new olfactory memory. Whether or not we deem that smell pleasant or not can boil down to experience, culture, or even just personal preference. We could even learn to love a smell that we once hated! So don’t worry, with time, your special someone will learn to love your own unique brand of cheese.