Botox not only cuts sweat, it also reduces body odor, researchers say
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
(KRT) - Fernando Lamas would have loved Botox.
Not only does the popular wrinkle fix make people look good, it also apparently makes them smell marvelous, or at least less stinky.
Research published last week indicates that botulinum toxin A, also known as Botox, may improve body odor when it is injected under the armpit.
The unusual finding and the strange experiment that German researchers devised to prove it were published in the Archives of Dermatology, a publication of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
U.S. doctors have known for at least a couple of years that Botox can reduce excessive sweating, a condition known as hyperhidrosis.
Some physicians have been administering the injections as so-called off-label treatments. Off-label treatments are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration but are allowed because the drugs already have undergone safety testing for another use.
Botox for wrinkles has a similar history. It was approved by the FDA for cosmetic use only last year, even though it had been used off-label for more than a decade. That's because it has been approved for facial tics and other neurological disorders involving facial muscles since 1989.
In Europe, Botox has been used for hyperhidrosis for about five years.
Two years ago, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine indicated that Botox injections were a safe and effective treatment for excessive armpit sweating. Today's study indicates that it also reduces body odor.
Researchers at Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich injected 16 healthy volunteers with no history of abnormal body odor with Botox under one arm and a placebo solution under the other arm. They were given cotton T-shirts to wear for 24 hours after being instructed not to eat asparagus, garlic or onions or to have close contact with their partners for two days.
After those 24 hours, the armpit sections of the T-shirts were cut out and placed in glass bottles. T-shirt sniff tests then were performed.
T-shirt sections from the Botox-treated armpits had significantly less unpleasant odor. In addition to reduced odor intensity, they also had a more pleasant smell.
The researchers acknowledged the small number of subjects in their study but noted the strong statistical significance of the findings. They said studies with more people were warranted.
Botox works by blocking the release of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which, in turn, deactivates nerves that stimulate sweat glands.
Botox also may interfere with microbes on the skin.
Safwan Jaradeh, chairman of neurology at the Medical College of Wisconsin, said he has a handful of patients with excessive sweating problems whom he has successfully treated with Botox.
The injections last four to eight months, he said.
Typically, a treatment for the armpits and groin costs about $450. Adding the hands and feet can increase the cost to about $850.
And while the treatments became available too late to benefit Lamas, who died in 1982 and whom comedian Billy Crystal immortalized with his "You look marvelous" routine, other actors and celebrities have been using Botox to prevent sweating. Often they will get an injection if they may be going onstage to receive an award, for example, Jaradeh said.
Actors and celebrities also were among the first to get Botox injections for wrinkles.
However, Jaradeh said he didn't think Botox parties for sweating are likely to happen anytime soon.
The treatments are for those with excessive sweating problems.
"Mildly excessive sweating probably is overkill," he said.
In addition, considerably more injections and time are required for sweating treatments than for wrinkle treatment.
"It's laborious," he said. "If you are going to throw a party, it's going to take four or five hours to do five people."
Botox, which is injected in very small doses, is a refined strain of botulinum toxin, which causes botulism, a food-borne illness that can be fatal. The toxin is one of the most poisonous substances on earth.