Fruits and vegetables are inarguably healthy, but could they make men more attractive to the opposite sex? A new study has found that women prefer the body odor of men who eat fruits and vegetables, to those who eat a lot of carbohydrates.
“We’ve known for a while that odor is an important component of attractiveness, especially for women,” Ian Stephen a professor at Macquarie University in Australia and one of the study’s authors, told NPR.
Stephen says that sweat helps signal the overall health of a potential mate, so to figure out how body odor and attractiveness are linked, researchers recruited a group of healthy men and measured the amount of fruits and vegetables they eat using a tool called a spectrophotometer.
The spectrophotometer “flashes a light onto your skin and measures the color reflected back,” explains Stephen. It’s looking for carotenoids, the pigments in red, yellow, and orange fruits and vegetables. Carotenoids are deposited in the skin after we eat them, and are “a good indicator of how much fruits and vegetables we’re eating.”
Then, the participants took a survey that outlined their eating patterns. Next, the researchers had to get that sweat from somewhere, so they gave the men white t-shirts, and asked them to exercise.
The researchers then recruited some women to participate in a much less appealing aspect of the study: After the men finished exercising, the women smelled their sweaty t-shirts, rating the resulting odors using descriptions like “floral” and “fruity.”
Though Stephen’s sample size was small, he explains that the results were consistent across the board: Women rated the sweat from men who ate more fruits and vegetables higher than those who did not.
NPR did a little more digging, and discovered that the connection between your diet and your body odor isn’t as straight forward as you might think: While your breath might smell like the food you eat, your sweat doesn’t (it actually only starts to smell when the bacteria on the surface of your skin metabolizes the matter that comes out of the sweat glands).
Even so, as NPR points out, a 2006 study came to similar conclusions: Women preferred the smell of men who ate a non-meat diet.