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The Surprising Connection Between Cheese and Foot Odor

From Feet to Fromage: The Intriguing Connection Between Smelly Cheese and Smelly Feet


Have you ever lifted the lid on a wheel of pungent cheese and detected a whiff that seemed oddly reminiscent of sweaty socks? It's not just your imagination playing tricks on you. There's a fascinating scientific connection between the bacteria lurking in smelly cheeses and the ones thriving on our feet.


Picture this: as you kick off your shoes after a long day, you're unwittingly releasing a plethora of bacteria into the air, including a particularly notable culprit called Brevibacterium aurantiacum. This bacterium loves to call your feet home, reveling in the warm, moist environment and munching on dead skin cells. In the process, it emits a gas known as methanethiol, which gives off that unmistakable sulfuric stench akin to old shoes.


Munster Cheese
Munster Cheese

Now, here's where it gets intriguing. That same Brevibacterium aurantiacum, with its aromatic prowess, isn't just confined to foot territories. It also moonlights as a key player in the world of cheese ripening. Yes, you read that right. Cheeses like Port-du-Salut, Munster, Raclette, and Morbier owe part of their distinctive aroma and flavor to this bacterial accomplice. As it goes about its cheesy business, breaking down proteins and fats, it releases methanethiol, contributing to that characteristic "feet" smell.


Smelly Socks

But wait, there's more. Even if Brevibacterium aurantiacum doesn't make a cameo in the cheese-making process, there's another sneaky route to that familiar odor. Most cheeses contain an amino acid called methionine, which conveniently breaks down into—you guessed it—methanethiol. So, whether it's by direct bacterial action or biochemical wizardry, the result is the same: that tantalizingly tangy scent that some find off-putting, while others find utterly irresistible.


So, should the revelation that your favorite smelly cheese shares microbial kinship with your less-than-fresh footwear deter you from indulging? Absolutely not. Embrace the quirks of microbiology and let your taste buds revel in the complex flavors and aromas that only a well-aged, bacteria-infused cheese can offer. After all, isn't the strangeness of science part of what makes it so captivating?

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