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You Want To Smell Better: Don’t Eat Red Meat!

Meat eaters: You stink!

Body_OdorI should start off by stating that I am a meat eater. Hence, I am not trying to push a vegetarian agenda on anyone although I have often struggled with the moral implications of eating meat.

A commonly held belief is that people's body odors can radically be affected by their diets. However, little research has actually been conducted to address this issue. More specifically, does the consumption of red meat affect one's body odor? Jan Havlicek and Pavlina Lenochova tackled this very question and subsequently published their findings in a 2006 paper in Chemical Senses.

Seventeen young men were instructed to follow two diets that either included or excluded meat consumption. The men followed each diet for two weeks, and at the end of each of the two diets, they provided samples of their body odors via cotton pads. They were provided with very strict instructions regarding foods (garlic and radish), drinks (alcohol), or activities (smoking and "exaggerated" sexual activity) to avoid throughout both diets.

Thirty women, who were not utilizing any hormonal contraception (as this can affect a woman's olfaction), rated the cotton pads of the men in question across both diets. Hence, this provided a powerful within-subjects design to test for the olfactory effects of red meat consumption. Men's odors were evaluated as more attractive, more pleasant, and less intense when following the nonmeat diet. No difference was found for the masculinity of the odors across the two conditions.

Caveat: To those readers who desire to argue that this is a small sample size, and that accordingly it is not representative of all noses around the world, please refrain from doing so, and perhaps think of cracking open a book on experimental design.

In addition to the health benefits associated with a reduced red meat diet, this study provides us with more "peripheral" reasons for switching to a low (or no) red meat diet. You'll smell better!

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