Those worried about their dating prospects might want to avoid ordering the steak dinner — at least that’s a common perception among foodies.
There’s no shortage of articles and lists about the benefits of becoming a vegetarian that mention one pro in particular: Avoiding meat will make you smell rosier, especially to your preferred sexual partners. But is this popular factoid actually based in reality, or does it have the staying power of meat-on-a-stick? Let’s take a brief look at the evidence.
In 2006, a pair of Czech researchers published a quirky study. They recruited 17 male volunteers to either eat copious amounts of red meat or avoid it completely for two weeks straight. On the last day, they collected samples of their body odor with cotton pads and asked 30 women not using birth control to rate how attractive, masculine, and intense their scents were. Lastly, they repeated the experiment a month later, but this time switched around who did and didn’t eat meat.
Despite the switch-a-roo, women consistently rated the body odor from non-meat eaters as more attractive and masculine, but less intense, than that of their meat-eating counterparts, with the researchers speculating the higher levels of fat in red meat may be the biggest smell factor.
Though the research only studied a small group of people, there's more than a whiff of logic behind its conclusions. The contents of our bodily fluids, be it sweat, urine or semen, are influenced by the nutrients we process and the waste products we don’t. That's why one of the tell-tale signs of diabetes is an unusually sweet urine odor — the glucose that would normally be converted into energy by insulin is instead left behind to flow right back out into the nearest toilet bowl. Eating too much meat at once, as anyone who’s participated in a wing-eating contest would know, can also wreak havoc with your digestive system, leading to constipation and other gastrointestinal woes that might explain why slovenly meat eaters are considered smellier.
More Than Meets The Nose
All that said, though, the study’s findings seemingly haven’t been repeated by anyone else. And you don’t have to look too hard to find people complaining about their odoriferous emissions following a switch to a vegetarian diet — asparagus being one of the chief culprits. In both cases, it’s likely the higher levels of chemicals that are eventually broken down into sulfur that further explains the pungent smell. Still, unless you’re switching from an everyday diet of meat hoagies to fresh garden greens, the differences in body odor will likely be marginal, especially if you’re taking regular showers.
That’s not to say that eating meat isn’t bad for your dating pool. A 2007 survey out of New Zealand found that most vegans, especially women, were less than receptive to the idea of dating carnivores. And some certainly cited fouler-smelling odors and bodily fluids as a chief reason why. Given how selective vegans are about their lifestyle choices, though, the researchers suggested that at least some of the disdain was simply because meat eaters didn’t share their ideological beliefs.
It’s just as well — no one should date someone that they have to constantly hold their noses in front of, whether physically or philosophically.