What does blood smell like?
I think we agree that this is a pointless question. Why do we need to know the smell of our blood? It doesn’t change throughout our lifetime, does it?
Well, it is the duty of every human to argue on every God-forsaken pointless topic under the sun. And so, we bring to you today the answer to the question, “what does blood smell like?”
For us to answer that question, we should know what the blood contains to give it the smell it has. Then, we will talk about whether exposure to different environments affects the odor of our blood or not. To learn this all, read ahead.
Why talk about the smell of blood?
One of the reasons to talk about this topic is to clear the misunderstanding commonly known by humans. Did you know that when you rub a coin against your fingers, the metallic odor you smell isn’t that of the coin? Rather, it is your own fingers that come between the coin and your blood that has this metallic smell.
This is the other reason to learn by talking about the smell of blood. What exactly does our blood contain to have such nose wrinkling stenches when it directly or indirectly comes in contact with other substances?
What is blood made of?
Through different sources, we learn that blood contains plasma, blood cells, and platelets. It also contains water, sugar, fat, proteins, and salt. But these aren’t the features that cause the metallic odor of blood.
Rather, it is a component of our blood called the trans-4, 5-epoxy-(E)-2-decenal compound that supposedly gives our blood the smell it has. In addition to that, the 1-octen-3-one that is present in a large amount in our blood also contribute to this odor. What is more, this is not only found in blood, but also in human sweat.
Why does blood smell like metal?
I have already given the obvious compound that gives blood the metallic odor. Other than that, a research decomposed the mean plasma level of blood and found the different metals present in it. These include:
- Nickel: 0 to 0.27, and 0.060,
- Copper: 0.050 to 1.93, and 1.03,
- Magnesium: 12.5 to 36.0, and
- Chromium: 0.009 to 0.055, and 0.027,
- Zinc: 0.49 to 7.70, and 3.01
Also, iron is present in a massive amount in our blood. This is what helps us breathe and work properly. The normal iron level of our blood ranges between 12-15, and if your iron level falls below that, a doctor must be visited immediately. Remember not to let your iron level fall below 4, as then your life is in grave danger.
Is it the same for men and women?
Research shows that the smell of blood in men and women differ slightly. Women have a higher level of stimulus present in their blood and the composition includes different elements due to the different processes they go through. Their menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and different procedures cause their blood to have a stronger smell than males.
A research on the smell of blood
Matthias Laska, a professor of Zoology at the Linkoping University in Sweden, wanted to study in detail the smell of blood.
“Very few people have analyzed the composition of blood odor – even in humans – except for finding biomarkers for certain diseases. It’s not an odor that’s commercially valuable; I think you have to be interested in animal behavior for this kind of study.”
Laska was a student of Andrea Buttner, a specialist of complex odors. In the beginning, the blood of a pig was decomposed through gas chromatography to study the odor of blood. On that, Buttner said,
“There are hundreds of volatiles in blood odor, so identifying all the compounds is an enormous task,” she further stated, “Often it is the substances at very low concentrations that are the most potent, but they are difficult to detect with conventional detectors.”
According to Laska, the human nose is still more attentive in detecting lower concentrations of odorants.
The professor and student found the element of trans-4,5-epoxy-(E)-2-decenal in blood that causes the potent smell of blood.
“We used the hypothesis that we humans might be able to smell the same substance as the predators,” says Buttner. “I had a gut feeling from my daily sniffing experience that this was a promising substance that might be a potent trigger for the smell of blood.”
Laska then performed an experiment in which she rubbed trans-4,5-epoxy-(E)-2-decenal on logs and presented them to animals. The reaction was mind blowing.
“The animals performed better than even in our wildest dreams,” Laska said. “They clearly reacted to the infused logs – sniffing, licking, pawing and toying. It will be interesting to continue this line of research to see how this has evolved.”
Even though, further studies need to be made to completely digest the metallic odor of blood. Buttner said,
“For me, it’s also important to do further identification and quantification on all the other odorants we detected. I would like to see if this whole bouquet of blood smells works better than the trans-4,5-epoxy-(E)-2-decenal.”
Even though we know the main component of metal odor, that doesn’t mean the learning ends here. Reaction of different beings and he component itself with different substances still demands devoted attention.