For this latest study, the researchers compared the distribution, function and secretion of different types of human skin glands with those of other primates. Based on the information, humans would be predicted to smell more like chimpanzees and gorillas, due to similarities in the distribution of these glands, but chimps and gorillas release more oils, probably to safeguard their body fur.
Adult humans instead frequently emit water, proteins, amino acids, urea, ammonia, lactic acids and certain salts -- much of which can stink. During puberty, the glands that release these components mature and are colonized by bacteria.
"So even though parents can recognize their preadolescent children by olfaction, children have a less 'pungent' body odor compared with adults," the researchers explained, adding that children also produce sweat at a lower rate than adults do.
The mosquitoes studied by the scientists bite sweeter smelling infants and children less frequently. Having a strong body odor can be useful at times, however. Smallegange mentioned that the odors that emerge during and after puberty are likely tied to "sexual maturity and mate choice." Prior research determined that we can even distinguish ourselves based on hand smell alone.