Smells Can Influence Metabolism and Aging

Exposure to female odors and pheromones causes weight loss and extends the life spans of mice, which may have implications for humans.

“Our studies show that female odors 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,”  says Lead researcher Dr Michael Garratt.

Newborn mice were exposed to odors from adult females until they were 60 days old. There was no effect of male odors on female mouse lifespan, or changes in lifespan in males in response to odors from either sex.

“As far as we know, this is the first observation that lifespan can be increased in a mammal by olfactory signals, or indeed secreted factors found in soiled bedding and urine,” Dr Garratt says.

“More generally, the work hints that sensory cues from our social environment can cause changes to our physiology and development, which may have long-term effects that extend to influence how we age.”

While male mice did not directly benefit in terms of longevity from female odors during development, when they are exposed to female odors as adults, their weight and metabolism was substantially affected, says Dr Michael Garrat.

“We would now like to understand how information received by the olfactory system is capable of inducing widespread effects. It is also possible that exposing male mice to female odors when they are adults may influence their lifespans and that’s a question we are currently pursuing,” Dr Garratt says.


Michael Garratt, Christine Neyt, Sharon R. Ladyman, Martina Pyrski, Frank Zufall, Trese Leinders-Zufall. Sensory detection of female olfactory cues as a central regulator of energy metabolism and body weight in male mice. iScience, 2023; 26 (4): 106455 DOI: 10.1016/j.isci.2023.106455

Michael Garratt, Ilkim Erturk, Roxann Alonzo, Frank Zufall, Trese Leinders-Zufall, Scott D Pletcher, Richard A Miller. Lifespan extension in female mice by early, transient exposure to adult female olfactory cues. eLife, 2022; 11 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.84060

University of Otago. “Smells influence metabolism and aging in mice.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 April 2023. <>.

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Photo by Elly Johnson