MadSci Network: Anatomy

Re: What is sweat made of and how much of each chemical is present?

Date: Sat Dec 5 18:43:21 1998
Posted By: Jim Bridger, Faculty, Biology, Prince Georges Community College
Area of science: Anatomy
ID: 912552387.An

Chuck- This is an interesting question that has a more complicated answer than you might think! There are 2 different types of sweat glands in humans, so there are 2 kinds of sweat. The more numerous gland type is the one that secretes sweat as a means of helping to regulate our body temperature. For example, on the palms of your hands, one square inch of skin contains over 3000 sweat glands!! This type of sweat is about 99% water with the other 1% consisting of NaCl,Vitamin C, uric acid, urea, ammonia and lactic acid. It varies among us by diet and heredity, as well as by our level of activity. If you ever drank GatorAide or other "sports" drinks, you were drinking "sweat" with some carbohydrates added for energy. In fact, a university in Florida (the Gators) came up with the formula by analyzing the sweat from their atheletes. They reasoned that they needed to have the wastes from sweat replaced in order to maintain the atheletes ' body fluid contents. Many of these ingredients are called electrolytes.

The other type of sweat glands are only found in a few places such as the groin, arm pits and faces of mature males. These only start to secrete sweat after puberty and have little if anything to do with temperature regulation. We think that they serve as an odor attractor due to their high content of fatty acids. They seem to serve as a method by which the opposite sex is summoned. Incidentely, the odor of a body that "stinks" is not due to the odor of sweat but is from the waste products of bacteria that live in the sweat. So - bathe regularly and these bacteria won't get a chance to make you odoriferous!

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