Can we just pen a quick love letter to tomatoes? Zesty dried ones. Juicy organic ones (bonus: they’re healthier!). Fresh, naturally ripe heirloom tomatoes from somebody’s backyard or rooftop. YUMMM. So it’s kind of a bummer that they’re making us smell bad.

Get in my mouth.
Nova Skola
Get in my mouth.

According to a new article in Medical Hypotheses (so yes, it’s hypothetical, although it’s a peer-reviewed hypothesis!), Irish biochemist J.C.M. Stewart believes the antioxidant lycopene in tomatoes is to blame. (Lycopene is a type of terpene, the chemical compounds that give essential oils and beer hops their smell. Red peppers, watermelon, and papaya also have lycopene in ‘em.) Turns out that terpenes mainly exit the body by squirting out your armpits.

Writes Stewart in his article’s abstract:

I propose that underarm odor is commonly caused by terpenes excreted via the axillary apocrine glands. I also show that these come from terpene and carotenoid-rich dietary sources including lycopene, tomatoes, orange peel and the glandular trichomes of tomato plants. These observations suggest that the axillary apocrine glands are a prominent excretory route for terpenes. Considering the quantities eaten, tomatoes are likely to be the main source of dietary terpenes, and underarm odor in turn.

Of course, everybody’s body chemistry is different — some people will always swear that eating pineapple makes them, uh, taste better. Even if tomatoes ARE making us stink, it seems a small price to pay for their powerful antioxidants and sun-ripened deliciousness.