We tend to think of tattoos as something that is purely for aesthetic purposes and a good way to make a statement or honor a memory. Now research released last year suggests that tattoos may change the way the body functions.
Researchers wanted to know if the process of tattooing, which involves hundreds of needle pokes to the skin, did any functional damage to the body. They thought this might be the case and wanted to see if there was any damage done to the sweat glands in particular, since tattoo ink is placed at the same depth in the skin as the sweat glands. Sweat is a very important body function because it cools the body down and helps prevent overheating.
The study, which comes out of Alma College in Michigan, tested ten young men with tattoos to see if sweat production differed between tattooed skin and non-tattooed skin. Each of the participants in the study had half of their upper body tattooed, with an equal amount of un-tattooed skin on the other side of the body. Patches that induced sweat were placed on both sides of the body and left for 20 minutes to see if there was a difference in sweat production and sodium levels.
It was found that the skin that was tattooed did not produce as much sweat as the natural skin – about half and much – yet contained almost twice the amount of sodium. This means that athletes with large amounts of ink may be at a higher risk for developing complications from exercise, such as heat stroke. This also may suggest that tattoos may impact performance. While this study was small, it is clear that there is some damage done to the sweat glands and more research in this area would be beneficial.
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