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Scientists from the Monell Center report that approximately one third of patients with unexplained body malodor production test positive for the metabolic disorder trimethylaminuria (TMAU).
The researchers led by Paul M. Wise, Ph.D., a sensory psychologist, tested 353 patients who had contacted the Monell Center because of unexplained personal malodor production. The offensive odors persisted despite good personal hygiene and the underlying causes could not be identified by medical and dental professionals.
TMAU is a genetically-transmitted disease that inhibits the ability of an enzyme to metabolize or transform trimethylamine (TMA), a chemical compound produced naturally from many foods. TMA has a foul, fishy odor. At lower concentrations, it may be perceived as unpleasant or “garbage-like.”
Production of TMA is associated with foods rich in the dietary constituent, choline. Such foods include eggs, certain legumes, wheat germ, saltwater fish and organ meats.
The distressing symptoms of TMAU stem from the accumulation of excess TMA – and its associated unpleasant odor – which is then excreted from the body in urine, sweat, saliva, and breath.
Importantly, TMA production and associated odor symptoms depend on what foods recently have been eaten and therefore may occur in irregular and seemingly unpredictable intervals. This makes the disease difficult to diagnose, as patients can appear to be odor-free when they consult a health professional.
A definitive diagnosis offers relief to these individuals, as symptoms of TMAU can hinder social and workplace interactions and cause psychological distress. But once the disease is identified, these debilitating symptoms can be ameliorated using changes in diet and other approaches.
Finally, the scientists note that 65 percent of the afflicted individuals examined did not test positive for TMAU and that future studies will seek to identify other causes of malodor production.
The research was published in The American Journal of Medicine: Wise PM, Eades J, Tjoa S, Fennessey PV, Preti G. Individuals Reporting Idiopathic Malodor Production: Demographics and Incidence of Trimethylaminuria. Am J Med. 2011 Aug 16. [Epub ahead of print]; DOI: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2011.05.030
Story Source: The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by The Zestzfulness Team) from the news release by Monell Chemical Senses Center on August 31, 2011.