A dab of artificial sweat can hugely increase your chances for romance, according to psychologist Norma McCoy and her student Lisa Pitino at San Francisco State University. They found that a commercial synthetic ?pheromone? tripled the sexual success of women.

In a study of 36 women, they found that sexual behavior with men was three times as high in women who added this sexy chemical to their perfume, compared to women who received a placebo. McCoy believes the additive, known only as Athena Pheromone 10:13, makes women more attractive to men.

?It?s a very impressive study with data that looks incredible,? says Joan Friebely of Harvard University. But other experts say they can?t comment on the results of the experiment until the composition of 10:13, which is a trade secret, is revealed.

Pheromones are chemicals that animals emit to attract sexual partners. They are crucial to the mating behavior of many insects and their existence has been firmly established in mice and hamsters. In mammals (that?s us), pheromones appear to act by binding to protein receptors located in the nose. But the role of pheromones in humans remains controversial.

McCoy and Pitino recruited healthy heterosexual women and asked them to record how often they experienced kissing, heavy petting, sexual intercourse and masturbation during a two week period. Then for six weeks, 19 women were randomly assigned a placebo to mix with their perfume, while 17 others were given 10:13.

The results were dramatic? 74 per cent of the women using the pheromone reported an increase in three or more of the activities and an increase in sexual intercourse was one of the strongest effects. In contrast, only 23 per cent of the placebo group reported a rise in three or more categories, and this was mostly in the less intimate activities such as informal dates.

McCoy?s colleague, Winnifred Cutler, has an institute that searches for human pheromones and sells synthetic versions of them. In 1998, they co-authored a paper on another secret formula called 10X that increased the sexual success of men.

But other researchers are not impressed. ?I?m not excited by this paper and I?m wary of this mystery chemical,? says George Preti of the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia. In the 1980s, Preti co-authored a paper with Cutler on the powerful biological effects of pheromones in human sweat but he is not convinced that Cutler has discovered the key compound. He also cautions that dosage is important, since at high doses ?you might not like what?s happening to you.?

Cutler says she will reveal the formula of Athena 10:13 once her patent, which has been pending for 10 years, is granted. She points out that 10:13 will be sold as a cosmetic, rather than a drug, and few cosmetics have peer-reviewed, randomized, placebo-controlled studies behind them and adds, ?And if a woman using this gets more affection, more dates, more loving, she probably doesn?t care what receptor it?s binding.?

Forget Chanel No. 5?Bring on Athena 10:13!

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