You may have chanced
upon someone who smelt of rotten fish and you might have felt hugely repelled.
It might surprise you to know that the disgustful odor might also be due to an
uncommon genetic syndrome, clinically known as trimethylaminuria
commonly known as "fish -odor syndrome
There are many who
suffer the ignominy of strong and overwhelming body odor. Most of these people have been treated like social outcasts. Food
habits of these people, and their poor hygiene, have been often blamed for this
unfortunate trait. All this has a severely negative psychological impact on the
But recently a study has revealed that in some people with
excessive unexplained body odor, an uncommon genetic disorder--"fish-odor
syndrome"-- may be the culprit.
Clinically known as trimethylaminuria, this metabolic disorder
is a condition that is characterized by the sufferer emitting excessive amounts
of the compound trimethylamine (TMA),
which is normally produced during the digestion of choline-rich foods.
Irony is that people with TMA spontaneously produce bad odors
despite maintaining optimal hygiene. TMA has a distinct fish odor but only
about 10 to 15 percent of people with trimethylaminuria emit the characteristic
odor and this makes the condition very difficult to diagnose.
Paul Wise, of Monell Chemical
Senses Center in Philadelphia headed the study which has been published
recently in the American Journal of Medicine.
caused by a mutation in the gene FMO3 and results in an inability in the body
to metabolize Trimethylamine and reduce it to
A person with this condition would have inherited one copy
of the deleterious gene from each of his parent. The parents usually carry a
single copy of this mutant gene; they do not suffer from body odor but are
'carriers' of this gene.
The current study was undertaken by Wise and his colleagues
to estimate the frequency with which trimethylaminuria was diagnosed in
individuals who sought help for unexplained, troublesome and chronic body odor.
Tests were carried out by measuring the levels of the "smelly" chemical, in the
urine, after an individual drank a choline-containing beverage.
Of the 118 patients who tested positive for TMA only 3.5
percent had complained of the charecteristic "fishy" odor although
they reported general body odor, bad breath or foul taste in the mouth far more
often. The vast majority of the patients had earlier consulted several doctors
and dentists before they were referred to Monell.
Many of the patients in the study had seen several doctors
and dentists before being referred to Monell for testing. There are not many
labs that do TMA testing—just a few across United States.
Currently there is no reliable method to treat TMA. The only
known method would be to alter the food one eats and minimize choline - rich foods. Meat and sea foods are rich source
of choline rich foods and avoiding these and other such food can help to
decrease the body odor.
Food to be avoided or cut down include the following:
• Saltwater fish
• Legumes such as kidney beans or soya
• Brussel sprouts
• Sun-dried tomatoes
• Mustard seed
• Coriander leaf
• Dried parsley
• Dried coriander leaf
• Chili powder