Women prefer the scent of men who consume large amounts of fruits and vegetables over the scent of men with a carb-rich diet filled with staples such as bread and pasta, a new study from Macquarie University in Australia shows. Love may be in the eye, and nose, of the beholder.
On the other hand, the study didn't say much about carnivores - women participants had no preference either way for the sweat of men who ate large amounts of meat, NPR reported. Women described sweat from meat-eaters as stronger, but this wasn't necessarily good or bad. Whether these findings are enough to change men's diets remains to be seen, but they do support the notion that scent plays a role in sexual attraction, which makes sense considering how much smell can say about a person's health.
In order to determine how diet influenced sexual attraction, researchers took sweat samples from men with different diets and had women rate the sweat. In addition to asking the men for a written diary of their average food intake, the researchers also measured the amount of fruits and vegetables that men ate using a device called a spectrophotometer. This device measures the amount of carotenoids—a pigment found in fruit and vegetables—in their skin. This helped the researchers better understand just how many fruits and vegetables the men had in their diet.
"The carotenoids get deposited in our skin." The spectrophotometer "flashes a light onto your skin and measures the color reflected back," study author Ian Stephen told NPR. The results are "a good indicator of how much fruits and vegetables we're eating," he says.
Next, the scientists had the men wear fresh t-shirts and asked them to exercise a bit to work up a sweat. Women were then asked to smell the sweaty t-shirts and “rate how much they liked it, how floral, how fruity," and other traits, Stephens told NPR.
Sweat, on its own, doesn’t actually smell bad. According to Medical News Today, the bad smell we associate with body odor is actually the byproduct of our sweat being broken down by bacteria that grow on the body. Thankfully, the female volunteers were exposed to male sweat before body bacteria had a chance to break it down.
Men whose spectrophotometry measure indicated they ate more fruits and vegetables were significantly associated with more pleasant sweat, described as having more floral, fruity, sweet, and medicinal qualities. Ultimately, greater carbohydrate intake was associated with stronger smelling and less pleasant sweat.
The study also notes that this is not the first time that eating more fruits and veggies has been associated with sexual attraction. For example, a 2009 study found individuals who have more yellow skin tones from carotenoid in their skin are found to be more attractive by the opposite sex.
The greater attractiveness of the veggie-eating man makes sense; fruits and veggies make us healthier, and most people would prefer to mate with a healthy person than one likely to make them sick, or worse, pass an illness down to their future offspring. So if you don't eat fruits and veggies for your own health, why not try them for the sake of your sex life?
Source: Zuniga A, Stevenson RJ, Mahmut MK, Stephen ID.Diet quality and the attractiveness of male body odor. Evolution & Human Behavior. 2017