Any woman who's ever reached for a glass of wine on a date only to reveal the soaked underarms of her outfit has probably wished she could remove her sweat glands. But long before pit stains became a social obstacle, perspiring was crucial to survival. "Sweat cooled off our ancestors in the grasslands of Africa," says anthropologist Helen Fisher, Ph.D. "It allowed them to hunt and forage without sweltering."
But a hot climate isn't the only thing that makes us sweat. Nerve-racking situations (e.g., a big job interview) can prompt the brain to trigger the release of stress hormones that raise your body's temperature enough to warrant a cooldown.
Here, three funky facts from the science of sweat.
Q: If sweat is just water and salt, why does it reek?
Sweat itself is odorless. But our armpits host special sweat filters called apocrine glands, which secrete an oily substance that, when mixed with bacteria on our skin, begins to smell, says David Pariser, M.D., a dermatology professor at Eastern Virginia Medical School. And since sweat is filtered from the bloodstream, pungent food odors can glom on to it. Ever notice how a guy can stink of garlic for days?
Foods That Burn Fat
Q: I've heard you sweat less if you're in better shape. Is this true or false?
False. While we all get damp in hot or tense environments, DNA is what mandates our liquid output. Being in top form doesn't necessarily mean you'll sweat less, says Dee Anna Glaser, M.D. In the same vein, changing your diet won't greatly reduce the amount you ooze.
Q: Sometimes I wake up drenched in sweat, but my bedroom is cool. What's going on?
Your house could be warmer than you think it is; the optimal sleeping temp is 68°F. "Night sweats can also indicate other issues, such as thyroid or adrenal problems," says Glaser. Some medications, including certain sleeping or antidepressant pills, may bring on p.m. sweats as well. If you're waking up to soaked sheets more than twice a week, see your doctor.
Tell Us: What are your best stay-dry tips and tricks??