What It Really Means When Your Sweat Smells Sweet

Having sweet-smelling sweat might sound like a dream come true compared to the alternative stinky scent some have after a long workout session. While it may mean nothing is seriously wrong with your health, it can also be a sign that something's amiss.

No matter the smell, sweating can feel uncomfortable. But it's actually the body's way of cooling down, according to Healthline. When the temperature around you gets too high and your body heats up, it will lower its temperature by releasing sweat from the sweat glands, which eventually evaporates and cools you down. This can also happen when your emotional state changes, like if you feel embarrassed or anxious. Sweat is mostly water, but 1% is made up of fat and salt.

Every person actually has about 3 million sweat glands, which produce a light amount of sweat all over the body. But some glands are concentrated in the hair follicles, usually found in the armpits, on the scalp, and in the groin area. In these areas, the sweat is heavier and has a higher fat content. When it breaks down and mixes with the bacteria on your skin, it produces a strong smell. Normally, this isn't a desirable smell, but sometimes sweat can smell sweet.

If you have diabetes, pay attention to your bodily scents

There are a couple of conditions linked to sweet-smelling sweat, and one of them is diabetic ketoacidosis. In this condition, which occurs mostly in people with Type 1 diabetes, symptoms can include excessive thirst, frequent urination, rapid breathing, dehydration, nausea, and vomiting. Diabetic ketoacidosis occurs in individuals who break down fat and produce ketones much too quickly, according to MedlinePlus. Ketones are a type of fuel created by the liver from broken-down fat, which is used by the heart and muscles. But an influx of ketones in the blood can become dangerously toxic, thus leading to ketoacidosis. For those who suspect signs of the condition, urgent medical care should be sought immediately.

Another symptom of diabetic ketoacidosis includes sweat that smells almost fruity (via the Cleveland Clinic). When blood levels get too high, they become acidic, so ketones increase, producing a sweet scent. While this can be a scary occurrence, it isn't the only condition linked to sweet-smelling sweat. Experts suggest a rare disease may be to blame.

How Maple Syrup Urine Disease can alter the scent of sweat

Is your body omitting the essence of warm maple syrup or burnt sugar? The culprit here may be Maple Syrup Urine Disease (MSUD). The syrupy smell from this condition is commonly found in urine, sweat, and earwax. While MSUD is a serious condition, it's also extremely rare. In fact, it's classified as a rare genetic disorder that's typically diagnosed at birth, according to Livestrong

The National Health System (NHS) explains that "the body cannot process certain amino acids (the "building blocks" of protein), causing a harmful build-up of substances in the blood and urine." 

Other symptoms of this disease include a lack of energy, body weakness, developmental delays, loss of appetite, muscle spasms, vomiting, and more. Often this condition is diagnosed by multiple symptoms showing up at once. Health experts suggest dietary changes can help manage this condition (per Livestrong).

While health conditions may certainly be to blame for sweet-smelling sweat, it may simply be a result of something far less serious.

Your sugary sweat may be due to the spice in your life

There are a couple of foods that change the way our bodies produce sweat, for better or worse. In particular, the powerful herb Fenugreek is one spice that may change the way you smell. According to Healthline, Fenugreek can actually be good for your health and not necessarily something to be avoided if you find yourself smelling rather sweet. In fact, it's been known to help those with diabetes better control blood sugar levels and improve insulin function. Other sweet benefits include helping with appetite control, lowering cholesterol levels, and reducing inflammation.

But why does it make your sweat smell sweet? Dr. Adimoolam-Gupta, an endocrinologist and internist, based in New York, tells Livestrong, "This herb contains a strong aromatic compound called solotone, and when your body breaks it down, your pores may produce a maple syrup smell." Case in point, consuming too much Fenugreek may leave you smelling like a syrupy brunch on a Saturday morning. But that may not be such a bad thing after all.