Attraction between people may be taking place at a level more subtle than clothing choice or facial appearance. There’s considerable evidence to suggest that we’re drawn together by our sense of smell. It’s not surprising that Proust’s Madeline prompted five volumes of memoirs. The smell of a cookie reminded him of his childhood and was the beginning of his remembrances of things past. When we look at scans of the brain as the subject is smelling, the areas of the brain that deal with mood, emotion, and memory light up. Different smells have different effects. If you believe the aromatherapists, lavender is soothing and sleep-promoting, while pine energizes.
The smell of a loved man’s arm pits has been demonstrated to reduce tension in women (although that probably won’t be an option at your spa anytime soon).
Women do have a better sense of smell than men, possibly because of our estrogen levels. Recently, there has been an uptick in the number of female sommeliers and beverage managers at some of New York’s best restaurants. A friend of mine who knows the wine says the women put the men to shame during the high-level tastings he attends.
When we smell someone new, we may be gathering data about a mate’s potential suitability. Underneath the soap, shampoo, and perfume we adorn ourselves with, every person has a unique and individual scent, like a fingerprint.
Newborn babies, just a few days old, can differentiate between genders on smell alone and will express a preference for the smell of their mothers over anyone else. The US Defense Department is considering developing technologies that would be able to identify people based on their signature smells. Scientists call this unique smell our odor type, and many people believe that it plays a significant role in whom we find attractive.
Marianne J. Legato, MD, Ph. D. (hon. c.), FACP is an internationally renowned academic, physician, author, lecturer, and pioneer in the field of gender-specific medicine. She is a Professor Emerita of Clinical Medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons and an Adjunct Professor of Medicine at Johns Hopkins Medical School. Dr. Legato is also the Director of the Foundation for Gender-Specific Medicine, which she founded in 2006 as a continuation of her work with The Partnership for Gender-Specific Medicine at Columbia University. She received an honorary PhD from the University of Panama in 2015 for her work on the differences between men and women.
At its core, gender-specific medicine is the science of how normal human biology differs between men and women and how the diagnosis and treatment of disease differs as a function of gender. Dr. Legato’s discoveries and those of her colleagues have led to a personalization of medicine that assists doctors worldwide in understanding the difference in normal function of men and women and in their sex-specific experiences of the same diseases.
She began her work in gender-specific medicine by authoring the first book on women and heart disease, The Female Heart: The Truth About Women and Coronary Artery Disease, which won the Blakeslee Award of the American Heart Association in 1992. Because of this research, the cardiovascular community began to include women in clinical trials affirming the fact that the risk factors, symptoms, and treatment of the same disease can be significantly different between the sexes. Convinced that the sex-specific differences in coronary artery disease were not unique, Dr. Legato began a wide-ranging survey of all medical specialties and in 2004, published the first textbook on gender-specific medicine, The Principles of Gender-Specific Medicine. The second edition appeared in 2010 and the third edition, dedicated to explaining how gender impacts biomedical investigation in the genomic era, won the PROSE Award in Clinical Medicine from the Association of American Publishers in 2018. A fourth edition is forthcoming.
She also founded the first scientific journals publishing new studies in the field, The Journal of Gender-Specific Medicine, and a newer version, Gender Medicine, both listed in the Index Medicus of the National Library of Medicine. She has founded a third peer-reviewed, open access journal, Gender and the Genome, which focuses on the impact of biological sex on technology and its effects on human life.
Dr. Legato is the author of multiple works, including: What Women Need to Know (Simon & Schuster, 1997), Eve’s Rib (Harmony Books, 2002), Why Men Never Remember and Women Never Forget (Rodale, 2005), Why Men Die First (Palgrave, 2008), The International Society for Gender Medicine: History and Highlights (Academic Press, 2017), and most recently, The Plasticity of Sex (Academic Press, 2020). Her books have been translated into 28 languages to date.
As an internationally respected authority on gender medicine, Dr. Legato has chaired symposia and made keynote addresses to world congresses in gender-specific medicine in Berlin, Israel, Italy, Japan, Panama, South Korea, Stockholm, and Vienna. In collaboration with the Menarini Foundation, she is co-chairing a symposium on epigenetics, Sex, Gender and Epigenetics: From Molecule to Bedside, to be held in Spring 2021 in Italy. She maintains one of the only gender-specific private practice in New York City, and she has earned recognition as one of the “Top Doctors in New York.”