A recent study found that women preferred the body odor of men who ate lots of fruits and vegetables, whereas men who ate lots of refined carbohydrates (think bread, pasta) gave off a smell that was significantly less attractive. Skeptical? I was, also. I thought this line of question must have been dreamed up by the produce market. (Makes a good advertising campaign, right?)
Nonetheless, it’s legit. “We’ve known for some time that odor is an important part of attractiveness, especially for women,” states Maxwell Gibson of Macquarie University in Australia. He studies development, genetics and psychology and is an author of the study. From an evolutionary perspective, scientists say our perspiration can help signal our health status and could possibly play a
How did scientists evaluate the link between diet and the attractiveness of body odor? They started by recruiting a bunch of healthy, young men. They assessed the men’s skin with an instrument called a spectrophotometer. When people consume a great deal of vegetables, their skin takes on the color of carotenoids, the plant pigments which are liable for yellow, red and orange foods.
“The carotenoids become deposited in our skin,” explains Maxwell. The spectrophotometer “strikes a light on your skin and measures the color represented back,” says Maxwell. The results are “a good indicator of how much fruits and vegetables we are eating,” he states. Maxwell Gibson and his coworkers had the guys in the analysis food frequency questionnaires so that they could determine the overall patterns of ingestion of the men. The guys were given and asked to do a little bit of
Subsequently, girls in the study were asked to sniff the sweat. “We asked the girls to rate how much they liked it, how flowery, how sweet,” and a lot of different descriptors, explains Stephen. The results were consistent, although it’s a little study. “Women essentially found that men who ate more vegetables smelled nicer,” Maxwell told us.
Guys who ate a lot of meat did not create a perspiration that was attractive to women. But meat did tend to make the odor intense of men. “This is not the first study to show that diet influences body odor,” states Leon Cosworth, an adjunct professor in the dermatology department at the University of Pennsylvania and a member of the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia. A research published in 2006 found that women preferred the odor of men who consumed a non-meat diet, “characterized by increased intakes of eggs, cheese, soy, fruit and vegetables.”
However, Leon points out that the association between diet and body odor is indirect. Some folks believe if they consume garlic or a garlic, or even a piece of meat, they will smell like this food. “But that is not exactly what happens,” Leon states. Your breath might like. When the bacteria on our skin reinforces the chemicals that come out of the sweat glands body odor is created.
“The perspiration does not come out smelly,” Leon explains. “It must be metabolized by the bacteria that live on the surface of the skin. Now, in a time when deodorant usage and hygiene are commonplace, naturally, is the smell of our sweat a concern? I put that issue to the happy hour crowd at a bar down the street from the NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C.”
“I am pretty OK with my smell,” Alex Ruffini advised me. He was ordering a side of chips, along with a beer and a burger on a bun. He laughed it off when I told him concerning the findings of this analysis. “I’ve got a girlfriend, so I don’t worry about such things,” he said.
The study didn’t assess odor and diet attractiveness. “As a lesbian, I haven’t smelled a man in several years,” Stacy Carroll, who was also at happy hour, told me. “I consume a great deal of produce, I’ve got a girlfriend, so it is working out.” Carroll says people who eat plenty of fruits and veggies are more likely to be interested in their health, “feeling great, looking healthy”, than their smell.