You already know that your eating habits can affect your sex appeal. But making dietary choices with attractiveness in mind is not just about slimming down. Our diets influence our natural body odor, and a new study suggests that not all odors are equal. The study, published in the the journal Evolution & Human Behavior, found that women consider the natural odor of men who consumed a diet heavy in fruits and vegetables more pleasant than the odor of men who consumed a diet made up of a lot of refined carbohydrates. Although this may be news to some people, the study’s results weren’t exactly surprising to scientists. As Ian Stephen, professor at Australia’s Macquarie University and one of the study’s authors told NPR, “We’ve known for a while that odor is an important component of attractiveness, especially for women.” That makes sense from an evolutionary perspective, as our diets and resulting body odor can be a useful indicator of physical health and fitness. However, scientists are learning more about the exact biological mechanisms that drive this strange phenomenon.
The researchers started by recruiting gathering a group of healthy young men.
They then asked male participants to complete questionnaires about their general eating habits. In addition to the questionnaires, researchers used an instrument called a spectrophotometer to measure the color of the men’s skin. The reason? Bright yellow, orange, and red foods contain plant pigments called carotenoids. When we eat those vegetables, the carotenoids influence the color of our skin. “The carotenoids get deposited in our skin,” Stephens told NPR, going on to say that the spectrophotometer “flashes a light onto your skin and measures the color reflected back.” Yes, in a sense, the scientists scoped the guys out with a carrot flashlight. According to Stephens, the information gathered using the spectrophotometer, along with the men’s responses to the questionnaire, allowed the researchers to gain an understanding of their overall eating patterns.
Researchers then had the men wear clean white T-shirts while performing physically strenuous tasks.
Next, Stephens and company collected the sweated-up shirts and had a group of women sniff them to evaluate the odors. “We asked the women to rate how much they liked it.” Then they gave feedback on numerous other factors, from “how floral” the guys’ body odors were to “how fruity” the sullied shirts smelled. Though the sample size was small, the results tended to be consistent. As Stephens told NPR, “Women basically found that men who ate more vegetables smelled nicer.”
Veggie consumption is not the only surprising thing that ups your attractiveness, though.
Unsurprisingly, lots of studies have been done on what women do and don’t find attractive in men. One of the more surprising results is from a 2010 cross-cultural study that included participants from the U.S., Germany, England, and China. In the study, women rated men as significantly more attractive when they were wearing red shirts. Perhaps even more surprising is a 2009 study that found women rated men with facial scars as slightly more attractive than those without. Possibly the most unexpected finding is from a series of studies that indicates that—contrary to popular belief—women preferred the body odor of men who consumed fresh garlic the night before. In any case, science says scent plays a substantial role in attraction, and these studies narrow down what you really ought to eat if you’re out to impress a lady. So be sure to keep these findings in mind during your next date night at the buffet.