Dr. Winnifred B. Cutler, the founder of Athena Institute and the Athena 10x pheromone products, has been floating around the internet for almost 2 decades.
… but are her claims trustworthy?
When I first started this blog, I searched high and low for just about every pheromone cologne and perfume I could get my hands on.
Even the hard to get and individual ones that were potentially useless.
But one thing I always found sketchy was that Athena Institute always seemed to pop up in media articles (not scientific journals or research), about the discovery of human pheromones, how pheromone colognes and perfumes work, etc.
Now, she does have some studies (which we’ll dissect in a moment), but much of her media attention is probably due to her website looking like it’s a piece of internet history, which probably makes some feel as if it’s more trustworthy.
But anyway, let’s get to the important part.
I have researched the science of pheromones, and a few things don’t add up about Dr. Winnifred Cutlers claims.
She went as far as claiming that she was one of the people who discovered human pheromones. She has since changed her tune into something more accurate, although still very easy to misinterpret:
“The discovery of human sex pheromones appeared in front page stories internationally when my colleagues and I succeeded in peer-reviewed acceptance for publication in scientific journals in 1986. We provided the proof that women and men emitted pheromones into the atmosphere and we showed that extracted pheromones could be collected, frozen for over a year, thawed and then applied topically above the upper lip of recipients to mimic some of the pheromonal effects found in nature.”
Who really discovered human pheromones?
The most likely person to discover human pheromones is a scientist named Alex Comfort (Comfort, Alex. “Likelihood of Human Pheromones.” Nature, vol. 220, pp. 432-479 ). Animal pheromones were already known to exist in the late 50’s, thanks to research by Peter Karlson and Martin Lüscher.
However, even with that said it is still difficult to determine who the true “founder” of human pheromones really is.
There is research that dates back to the early 1900’s with some allusions to pheromone communication, as well as some anecdotal evidence earlier than that. Even old text books mention that primal attraction we feel when we come across a particularly attractive pheromone scent.
Some scientists don’t even believe they exist.
The main reason is because it is difficult to identify which pheromones are responsible for what.
Although it is outside the scope of this article, this is important to mention because Dr. Winnifred B. Cutler (Dr. WB Cutler) was responsible for some early research on pheromones – but she did NOT discover them, nor was she influential in their research.
In fact, her early formulations of Athena 10x pheromones, and Athena 10:13 were simply DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) and androstenol formulations.
The truth about Athena Institute is that it is a commercial property propped up by Cutlers “research” (which is slightly sketchy).
“I think our product is the only product with any truth behind it’s claims”
- Winnifred Cutler
Sure it is, Doc.
This is also where the infamous 20/20 twins experiment came from (yes, the same ones you see on every pheromone scammer site – with fake reviews and made up claims about their effectiveness).
I am not outright dismissing all of Dr. Winnifred Cutlers research.
These videos were probably from the early 2000’s.
However, I believe it is one of the reasons why pheromones have got a bad rap in the science community and to the “mainstream” population.
It is precisely these kinds of sensationalized claims that make people run for the hills, and make real scientists snicker with ridicule at academics who may have otherwise pursued this in the future.
… Parading around as someone who contributed significant discoveries to world of human pheromones, and then using her “fame” to exploit real research (seriously, one of her early papers is called “Lunar and Menstrual Locking”).
With all the media attention she has received, it’s easy to class her as a real expert with no financial interests.
But it becomes more than clear when she patented the use of specific pheromone additives in cologne.
Athena Institute offers several products for men and women, but does NOT list ingredients.
Vendors have come a very long way since Cutler’s “discoveries”, which were largely other peoples research on androgens and pheromones… but anyway, take a look at these:
Patents indicating Athena Pheromone 10x and 10:13 are nothing but DHEA (or DHEAS, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate) and Androstenol formulations:
- Use of male essence to alter female endocrine response… “This exposure is preferably continued in amounts and for a duration which are effective to significantly alter an endocrine related characteristic, such as the menstrual cycle length, of that female. In particular, the portions of male axillary secretions to be exposed to the female preferably comprise one or more compounds such as androstenol, dehydroepiandrosterone, and/or a compound or … “
- Axillary androstenol and dehydroepiandrosterone as fertile period onset indicators… “Method for determining the onset of the fertile period of a human female comprising the step of monitoring the axillary secretions of said female during the course of her menstrual cycle to determine variations in the concentration of androstenol or dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate. A first significant increase in the concentration of either of those compounds following the cessation of menses is indicative of the onset of the fertile period.”
Also, to elaborate on her patents, according to JV Kohl, she had claimed that her products contained DHEA on television when her “discoveries” went national.
However, she later retracted her statements claiming that they were “patent pending” (some time earlier than 2002 – so it’s old news).
While this doesn’t mean that they are the only pheromones in the products, they are the most likely candidates along with others in the same category (perhaps androsterone, andosterone, androstenone, etc).
The following are some old posts from the love-scent pheromone forums, as well as old posts scattered throughout PheroTalk.
(by JV Kohl, early 2000’s)
Note that JVK is banned from the forums, most likely due to self promotion. His attacks on Dr. Winnifred Cutlers “hype” is also very contradictory now… his website has plenty of that.
But regardless, these are some posts that were interesting to see when I was investigating Cutler’s “research” and Athena pheromones.
Winnifred Cutler, Ph.D., markets Athena 10:13 and 10X. While she can take credit for some early work on human chemical communication, she goes too far by saying “she discovered human pheromones,” just as Dr. Teresa Crenshaw goes to far when she claims to have predicted the discovery of human pheromones.
Lately, Cutler’s been claiming that her patent application prevents her from disclosing what’s in her products. However, last time I looked, the only patent app. she filed was many years ago–long past the time it would typically take to acquire a patent if her app. had merit.
Besides, her focus was on dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), a very unlikely candidate to be a human pheromone since it is an adrenal androgen. Why would an adrenal androgen be attractive to men? Yet, Cutler claimed that DHEA was the active ingredient in Athena 10:13 in a national TV talk show broadcast. Then, she clammed up and said she couldn’t divulge info. But not before she told the TV audience that a similar product for men could not be effective–because, in nature, it’s the male who pursues the female, not the female who pursues the male. Yeah, right! Then, a year later, she came out with her 10X product for men. Cutler spouted more garbage about the concept of human pheromones than I’ve heard from anyone before or since.
I’m not sure about the reason why Bruce doesn’t make 10X available from this site, but so far as I’m concerned he has shown remarkably good taste in not marketing such a worthless, albeit very expensive, product.
Two reports of results using her undisclosed “pheromones” were subsequently called into question.
Here’s what I state in an as yet unpublished manuscript.
Also, reports of behavioral change to an undisclosed human pheromones that acts as a sex attractants”according to marketing claims–and reviewed in (Cutler and Genovese, 2002) have been dismissed elsewhere (Winman, 2004; Wysocki and Preti, 1998). Disclosure is essential to independent replication, a basic tenet of scientific research, and especially to scientific research on human sexual behavior.
It’s not just the non-disclosure that’s the problems, it’s the way the study design and results are presented. So far as I’m concerned, about the worst that can happen to an olfactory researcher is to have other olfactory researchers tell the world (in peer-reviewed journals) that your studies and their results are substandard and therefore unacceptable. Perhaps this is why Winnifred does not attend any olfactory conferences, or publish in journals with reviewers and editors who might better examine her claims, or the claims made by others for her undisclosed product ingredients.
Uninformed consumers deserve better than to be led into new areas of research by charlatans who make big bucks scamming them. What may be worse is that people like Winnifred give the topic of human pheromones a bad rap. It really is inexcusable to not publicly disclose ingredients after she said on a television program that her Athena 10:13 contained DHEA. In subsequent programming, she claimed that she could not disclose the ingredients due to a patent pending. Do a patent search on her name to see if you can determine which patent pending she might be thinking about.
Obviously, I’ve followed her trail for many years. But I’m willing to listen to anything anyone wants to say in support of her product marketing, other than her product(s) work. There’s not enough science for me in statements like that.
I’m glad that others have commented on Athena 10X and the Athena site.
In my book I might have given the hint that I have little respect for such hype, and possibly that, also, I don’t think much of Dr. Cutler. Here’s why:
In 1993 or 4, I called and spoke briefly with Winnifred about the work I was doing with extending my mammalian pheromone model to humans. The conversation ended when Cutler asked where I had obtained my doctoral degree–and I told her I never got one. “Then why am I talking with you,” she asked, and promptly ended the conversation. “You b_ _ _ _h” I thought.
You can imagine my surprise when Winnifred called me in 1995 (after release of my book) to ask for my help with a text book chapter on pheromones. I told her I would let her know in a few weeks. Then I found out that Bruce McEwen (who helped me tremendously in the early years of my research) was the section editor for the section in which Cutler’s chapter was to appear. I figured that, at least, Bruce would ensure I got credit for my input.
Then I met a couple of Winnifred’s “friends” — who appeared in film clips that were presented during Cutler’s talk show appearances.
They both cautioned me that Winnifred would steal material from me and give me no credit …
“… and strongly advised that I not provide her with any information that I didn’t want her to take the credit for”
I thought this was very odd behavior for her friends, but they acknowledged that despite the friendship with her, Winnifred’s personality alienated a lot of people.
More on the hype. The Neuroendocrinology Letters website mentions the award we received for the article “Human Pheromones: Linking Neuroendocrinology and Ethology.” What it doesn’t say is that this award includes an all-expense paid trip to Prague, where I will receive a diploma with honors from the university. So, should I brag about this on my website–perhaps name dropping a little, to bolster product sales? I think not.
Most people I know tend to agree that the scientific credentialing and hype have little to do with product worth. I’m tempted to say, the more hype; the less likely the product is to be worthwhile–but can never be sure. What we can be sure of is that if a product works well, we will hear about it in this forum.
As for why Dr. Winnifred Cutler went out of her way to patent this, it’s probably because DHEA is a precursor.
Look at the strategy others, like Cutler, have used. They make wild claims designed for suckers; not interested consumers [LOL].
Bruce, instead, developed this forum so interested consumers could become better informed and provide feedback on products. He’s done more for providing info than anyone I know–all the while taking a easy approach: the truth.
I’ve been so busy with the scientific end of topics that I haven’t been able to relate to more general audience, until recently. Finally, I started reading the comments in this Forum and I have become more informed about what you want. I’m glad to see that most of you aren’t looking for products that advertise GET LAID more often; or DRIVE WOMEN WILD.
The best approach is always the easy, truthful approach. Pheromones work well, they don’t perform miracles. If you think that by wearing a pheromone product you can sucker someone else into a sexual encounter, you’re on the wrong track. Spend more time reading in this Forum, and you’re bound to get on the right track–thanks to Bruce.
Now let’s talk about Athena Pheromones 10x (for men) and Athena 10:13 (for women).
In the instructions provided by the company, users of the product are advised to mix the vial into 2-3 ounces of cologne, to use as an “aftershave”.
The most bizarre part about it, is that users are expected to wait several months for results.
She bases the success of her product based on a very dubious “8-week double-blind, placebo-controlled scientific study” (PDF).
In this “study”, every claim she makes is COMPLETELY unsubstantiated by any true measurable, predictable and mostly SCIENTIFIC standard.
They are completely anecdotal, and could easily be skewed in the products favor for her own financial interests.
At the end of the day, results are what matter. So do Athena pheromones work (10x and 10:13)?
Yes, but it is outrageously expensive (almost $100), and the results are minimal.
After a few months of messing around with it as it was intended to be used (and wasting a good bottle of CK One last year), I can say that it had very little impact on social interactions or on attraction.
The only thing that I did notice was that I felt a little better and had some chattier moments with women.
As I mentioned earlier, the products were most likely to contain DHEA and some basic andro- variations (androstenol).
But I had come to this conclusion even before I speculated or researched what was in the Athena products.
DHEA is known for its effects as a precursor hormone – it converts to androgens (like testosterone), and estrogen in the body.
In fact, it is a very affordable and effect supplement that can help you with your overall health (especially if you want to boost your NATURAL pheromones and testosterone levels).
After thinking about this for a while, I believe what Cutler was trying to do with the products is boost the bodies ability to naturally create pheromones.
This is why she recommends a significant time to see any kind of benefits of using 10x.
… however, as a user of natural health supplements, I had even BETTER results simply taking a DHEA supplement directly (and even more quickly).
It is one of the few recommended supplements in the article I linked above.
So is Dr Winnifred Cutler and the Athena pheromones 10x/10:13 products worth buying?
No, they are overpriced, ineffective, and have been stuck with the same product line for over a DECADE.
That’s a century in internet time. You would think by now that with all the “research” Cutler has out there, she would have some groundbreaking discoveries by now…
… but instead she is still trying to ride the media wave she got many years ago, and hasn’t contributed anything significant for a while now.
In fact, I think the pheromone community has done far more research than most “scientists” in the field in the last few years than actual laboratories – in terms of seeing what pheromones do anyway.
Collectively, we have tested and advanced the complexity of pheromone colognes and perfumes, and some vendors have even tried awesome experimental new things just to see what happens.
Gel bases, silicone, experimental pheromones… it’s all there, waiting for someone to take advantage of it.
In this case, Cutler got a ridiculous amount of attention for research that she played a small part in.
… she took advantage and built the Athena Institute.
And from there, companies like PherX and other hype artists have taken full advantage of this dubious research too.
But it’s time to adapt and grow with the competition, and Dr Cutler, Athena Institute, and the 10x pheromones and 10:13 products are just not up to par.
Unfortunately, this product line – while it may be legendary and conjure up memories of first discovering pheromones (the OG’s)…
… this is a remnant of the past and just isn’t worth the money anymore.
Testing had minimal effects, and you are far better off using DHEA as a supplement to boost your natural pheromones (or even dilute a few capsules and mix your own – tutorial coming soon).
It’s time to wrap it up.
Thanks for reading,
- Phero Joe
P.S. No amount of pheromones would ever make me find Dr Cutler attractive. Also, like I mentioned above, her “research” is extremely sketchy and holds absolutely no weight when put under careful scrutiny. Here is a study I found dissecting some of her claims.