In the biography of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, Isaacson reports that as a vegan, Jobs believed that he smelled better than omnivores and didn’t need to bathe as often as his meat-eating colleagues. With this mindset entrenched in his meat-loathing brain, Steve was reported to rarely shower and to smell as if he hadn’t bathed in weeks (at least during the hippie days of his 20s and into his 30s), which was literally probably the case. Putting Steve’s reluctance to jump in the tube aside, was Steve onto something? Do people that avoid meat actually smell better than those that consume animal products regularly? Given that Americans spend millions of dollars each year on personal care products, perfumes and deodorants, it’s worth looking into the effects of diet on body odor.
While I would love to report that numerous scientists have taken the same thirst for knowledge on this subject as I do, it appears I’ve got no such luck. However, there is one study that seems to support this hypothesis. Anthropologists at the University of Charles, Czech Republic, were curious enough to conduct a study on the effects of diet on body odor.1 The researchers had women judge the body odor of men fed a vegetarian or non-vegetarian diet and determine which body odor they found more “attractive”. The result? Overwhelmingly, the women judged the body odor of men on a vegetarian diet to be “significantly more attractive, more pleasant, and less intense”. If we go by this study, our noses certainly are happier when we spend more time out in a garden as opposed to a meat packing factory. Ladies, if you’ve got a fella who cares about his pungency, this study may just be the perfect strategy to convert him to a nutritarian diet.
In the absence of an adequate intake of phytochemicals and other micronutrients, cellular detoxification is impaired which elevates cellular free radical activity, priming the body with more toxic substrate. Conventional eaters build up inflammatory by-products. So it does make sense that especially a nutritarian eating all those free-radical-fighting foods that prevent the accumulation and elimination of toxins such as lipid peroxidases and aldehydes, would smell better even without a collection of studies to support this.
What comes out of our bodies reflects what we put in them and body odor is strongly influenced by what’s being emitted by our sweat glands. What is going to smell more unpleasant? A 98.6 degree carrot that has been decaying for a days or a piece of meat left to decay at 98.6 degrees? Or how about a hormone pumped, antibiotic loaded, factory farmed piece of meat like 99 percent of the meat sold to consumers in this country? Anyone want to test this?
Besides serving the role of cooling the body, our sweat is supposed to help us excrete toxins. That’s why sweating is an important part of maintaining good health. As the largest organ in our bodies, our skin excretes plenty of toxins via sweat glands. And thank goodness they do! We do live in a world full of toxins, after all. Our armpits, therefore, actually have an important function in getting rid of these toxins. Have you been thankful for your armpits today?
The scent that we emit is a result of the intentional excretion of toxins that the body is trying to get rid of. If somebody smells like they just took a dip in a garbage dump, that’s probably because they are eating the standard American diet, which is full of “garbage”. I have therefore concluded that meat, junk foods, fast foods and other dietary atrocities just cannot be conducive to smelling desirable.
There is scientific support for my viewpoint. The report in the Charles University, Czech Republic, study read, “ Axillary body odor is individually specific and potentially a rich source of information about its producer. Seventeen male odor donors were on “meat” or “nonmeat” diet for 2 weeks wearing axillary pads to collect body odor during the final 24 hours of the diet. Fresh odor samples were assessed for their pleasantness, attractiveness, masculinity, and intensity by 30 women. We repeated the same procedure a month later with the same odor donors, each on the opposite diet than before. Results of repeated measures analysis of variance showed that the odor of donors when on the nonmeat diet was judged as significantly more attractive, more pleasant, and less intense. This suggests that red meat consumption has a negative impact on perceived body odor.”
Even though this was the only study I could find on our dietary composition and body odor, informal polls and interviews abound in which people report to prefer the smell of nutritarians and vegans/vegetarians. On one forum I found someone write, “My friend has quite strong body odor, but after she became full vegan, the smell has got lighter. At least when I sit next to her, I feel more comfortable”. Others expressed similar sentiments.
Besides meat, foods contributing to an unattractive body odor include refined white flour, sugar, hydrogenated oils and other processed ingredients. I am convinced a diet of leafy green vegetables, other nutritious vegetables like tomatoes and mushrooms, fresh fruits like berries, and nuts and seeds will result in the alluring body scent that we all seek (that is, if you maintain a regular shower routine, unlike Steve Jobs!).
Can you all relate or have any of you noticed that people eating a healthful diet tend to have a more pleasant smell? Uh oh, now I ’m not sure. My father just came back dripping wet after a tough tennis match, and I would swear he ate bacon and hamburgers. Unlike Jobs he claims he showers every week, whether he needs it or not. Maybe it is just a father-daughter thing.
1. Havlicek J, Lenochova P. The Effect of Meat Consumption on Body Odor Attractiveness. Chemical Senses 2006. 31(8):747-752.