Researchers at the University of Otago found that exposure to female odours and pheromones can cause weight loss and extend the life spans of mice, with potential implications for humans. This study highlights the impact of sensory cues on metabolism, aging, and the potential of olfactory signals to induce widespread changes across the body.

According to Dr. Michael Garratt, the lead researcher, it was already understood that sensory cues could affect the release of sex hormones in humans and animals. However, this study has revealed that these cues may have more widespread physiological effects on metabolism and aging.

“Our studies show that female odours slow the sexual development of female mice, but consequently extends their lifespan. And we also show that the smell of females can increase male mouse energy expenditure, which subsequently influences their body weight and body fat levels,” he says.

Newborn mice were exposed to odours from adult females until they were 60 days old. Those females exposed to the odours reached sexual maturity later and lived an average of 8% longer than those not exposed.

There was no effect of male odours on female mouse lifespan, or changes in lifespan in males in response to odours from either sex.

“As far as we know, this is the first observation that lifespan can be increased in a mammal by olfactory signals” Dr. Garratt says.