Science Focus - the home of BBC Science Focus Magazine
Why do sweaty feet smell of cheese? © Getty Images

Why do sweaty feet smell of cheese?

Subscribe to BBC Science Focus Magazine and get 6 issues for just £9.99

Foot cheese: not tasty on a cracker

Asked by: Jo Drysdale, Bristol

Advertisement

The same bacteria that is used to ripen many cheeses, including Munster, Limburger and Port-du-Salut, also lives on our skin and eats dead skin cells. It’s called Brevibacterium; as it digests it gives off S-methyl thioesters, which smell cheesy.

Another skin-munching bacterium is Staphylococcus epidermidis, which produces the cheesy, vinegary-smelling isovaleric acid. The final ingredient in this ‘socktail’ is Propionibacterium, which converts sweat into the sour-smelling propanoic acid.


Advertisement

Subscribe to BBC Focus magazine for fascinating new Q&As every month and follow @sciencefocusQA on Twitter for your daily dose of fun science facts.

Authors

luis villazon
Luis VillazonQ&A expert

Luis trained as a zoologist, but now works as a science and technology educator. In his spare time he builds 3D-printed robots, in the hope that he will be spared when the revolution inevitably comes.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Sponsored content