VIDEO: The Science of Sweat


Andrew Best, a doctoral student in the department of anthropology, is trying to figure out why some people sweat more than others. Best’s research is focused on sweat gland density. He aims to see if the density is related to where people grew up, and if it affects the body’s ability to cool itself.

To find out if sweat gland density is related to the environment, Best recruited volunteers from differing childhood climate backgrounds and geographies. He’s measuring sweat gland density in six locations on the body using a method called pilocarpine iontophoresis, which stimulates the glands to produce sweat. A layer of silicone material is applied in which sweat droplets leave an impression, which allows Best to account for density.

To determine the relationship between sweat gland density and the body’s ability to regulate heat, Best had 20 endurance athletes ride stationary bikes for an hour inside a metabolic chamber in the the Center for Human Health and Performance (CH2P). This allows him to measure the amount of heat produced by the body and how much heat is removed by sweating. He also records sweat gland density using the pilocarpine iontophoresis method.

For his work, the Leakey Foundation’s Board of Trustees awarded Best with one of 35 research grants.