Body Odor: Do Nutritarians Smell Better?

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.

Girl smelling flower. Flickr: GoodNCrazy

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.



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Comments (16) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Betsy Derr - September 10, 2012 9:43 AM

I've thought about this since Drew Canole posted something about it recently. What I've wondered is whether regularly juicing/eating garlic gives you body odor or bad breath? I know it does on a SAD diet, but what about a Nutritarian?
We can't usually tell if we have bad breath, and we have to rely on a good friend to tell us the truth, but my husband and my son cannot smell! What do you think?

Joanne - September 10, 2012 10:31 AM

Loved the article on whether we smell better on a nutritarian diet!! Ur conclusion was so funny,& and yes, that's definitely a father/daughter thing! Hahaha!!

Thanks for ur comment, Betsy!! I wonder the same thiing, can people smell the garlic & onions on me? I've been adding fresh parsley & mint 2 my meals, in hopes of combating it, wouldn't it be wonderful if we ate cleanly enough that others couldn't smell it??? I'm going 2 have 2 do some research with some close friends!! Lol!

Rebecca Cody - September 10, 2012 11:10 AM

There are so many factors at play here that it's hard to judge from such a short-term study.

I had an experience many years ago when spending time with a vegetarian friend who had terrible body odor. I borrowed one of her sweaters one day and I was shocked at the odor in it, because she showers frequently and keeps very clean. It turned out she was lacking zinc. Without sufficient zinc in the diet, I had read somewhere, you will have a strong body odor.

And odor from the other end - from eating all those beans - still defeats me, no matter what I do. I soak organic beans overnight, rinse them, cook them, take enzymes, Beano, and even a hydrochloric acid supplement and still I'm plagued with gas, gas, gas! Mostly the gas isn't terribly stinky, but it can often be surprising and explosive! Yikes! It does tend to put me off beans.

Theresa - September 10, 2012 12:42 PM

Great article! I definitely noticed a change in my chemistry since becoming vegetarian and then nutritarian as it was an evolution for me. Though I'm not one to skip showers, I feel more confident in general. I think breath smell is affected as well. My husband is a meat eater, (almost closet now because I cook less and less at home, LOL) and I can just smell it when he's had a bacon turkey sandwich - the day after! I can practically tell you if he ate a burger or a turkey sandwich at work, after a whole night and a shower! He says I'm crazy, now I have PROOF, yay!

Nancy Nurse - September 10, 2012 12:44 PM

Rebecca Cody, I'm so glad you wrote about the beans. I totally agree! I, too, have done everything and yet, I'm still plagued with gas. But, I'm convinced that there's GOT to be a solution? I even tried soaking them and cooking them with fresh ginger as well as all the things you mentioned and still nothing..

Margie Sifuentes - September 10, 2012 1:29 PM

Great topic. Worth more study!!! then you have all those masking odors people use to distract from any body smells (pleasant or unpleasant.

Kristina - September 10, 2012 3:14 PM

Thanks for the entertaining article Talia. My ex is 100% vegan and showers a couple of times a week, which seemed adequate. He smelled good to me!

Rebecca, have you tried taking probiotics? Also chewing food thoroughly, till liquified, might make a difference.

Gerry - September 10, 2012 5:23 PM

Hi all:

It's been my experience that nutritarian eating does cause less body odor, and that in spite of eating lots of onions and garlic. It is quite noticable that the body odor is much reduced and non existent with regular showers.

As to the other end....the gas problem, that Rebecca mentioned, I have found that after eating nutritarian for a few weeks this is much reduced and two thing seem to help. One is cooking the beans very thoroughly (in a slow cooker for at least eight hours) and also, though I know it is supposedly non nutritarian, I also have a quart of Stoney Brook Farms organic low fat yogurt (The French Vanilla is delicious) every now and then to keep the microbial flora in the intestinal tract balanced. The effect is amazing, in more ways than one. I don't care if dairy is off limits, when I see this kind of effect, and besides, in moderation it just makes sense. I could tell you a life and death story solved in a loved one by this simple solution, and that after many Dr's and Med Schools had been works and we are just learning some of the benefits of proper microbial flora in the disgestive system. Science still has a lot to learn.

Just my thoughts, and thanks for the interesting article Talia.

Sara - September 10, 2012 8:35 PM

I actually came to this conclusion years ago, when I traveled through Asia. It's easy to tell there because if you're in a village and have no indoor plumbing, you shower less than here and have pit toilets rather than the flush ones.

I lived for a time in Central Asia, where people eat a lot of lamb and fresh fruits and veggies are hard/impossible to come by in winter. I became accustomed to the scent of sweat and other rankness. Then I traveled to Southeast Asia, where the diet includes more vegetables and fruit year round and the meat eaten is primarily fish, and WOW. The sweat, the urine and other human scents were all there, but it was so much better! I couldn't believe it! It was like, sweet rather than rank? Hard to describe but much more pleasant, even when you knew you were walking into an alley where someone had just done their business.

There is definitely something to this.

Sharon S. - September 10, 2012 11:52 PM

I don't think a study is necessary. Visit a restroom after a SAD-eater has unleashed solid waste; then, visit a restroom after a Nutritarian has finished the same. The first will make you wretch and the second will not produce a detectable scent. My personal experience as the "producer" of both examples above leads me to the conclusion that Nutritarians are more attractive on many levels!

Grahame SD - September 11, 2012 11:25 AM

I agree with Sharon S. I don't think I need say more on that subject :)

I've also noticed that bad breath seems to be a common SAD trait. There's even a guy I work with who has to suck mints all day long to keep his breath smelling okay. It's really SAD - in more ways than one. :)

Veggie Kate - September 11, 2012 8:10 PM

Personal anecdote - I DEFINITELY notice a connection! The closer I got to a high-raw diet, the less I needed to wear deodorant. Now, after being vegetarian for almost 2 years, I notice my hair doesn't looks greasy so quickly.

My hubby also says he's noticed I taste sweeter when he kisses me ;-)

I do notice that SOY makes me stink! *lol* I had been enjoying my "less stinky self" at the gym for a while, and one night had 2 SoyJoy bars. The next morning at the gym, I got a whiff, and Ewww!! But it wasn't till I repeated this little test a few times that I was convinced that my body does not care for soy! Whether the bars, soy milk, or tofu - it gives me an added funk.

tereza crump - September 11, 2012 11:57 PM

To the people who wrote comments about beans... I had the same experience until I went wheat free. Now the gas is minimal and it doesn't stink. However, if I eat wheat or sugar within 10 minutes I am bloated and uncomfortable.

mac - September 12, 2012 10:27 PM

Seems to me every culture has something they've always added to cooking beans to help minimize the gas. Asafoetida in some Asian food, espazote in South American, bay leaves in European. I never ever cook my beans without a handful of bay leaves (buy them bulk), and we don't have a problem. I don't cook them super long either: just heat them to boiling on the stove, then pop a lid on them and put them in a preheated 250F oven for an hour. Sometimes they take longer, but I've never had them take over two hours. Not even the old ones.

Good luck!

Mark - October 1, 2012 6:52 PM

I used to have the funk real hard! I switched to a whole food, plant based diet and the funk left with a lot of other junk! I used to have to practically paint myself with deodorant just so I could tolerate myself and now I don't even need it. This is one benefit of eating clean that does not stink!

Annamaria - April 6, 2013 3:26 AM

Adding to an old thread... I found that what caused 'beans' to give me terrible gas was not the beans, but the spices I put on them. I cut out the chili spice, finely-ground black pepper and especially cumin, and I went from having gas all day, every day, to the degree that I had to plan my contact with other human beings around the low-gas periods of the day, to having what I would assume is 'normal' intestinal gas and some days hardly any or even no gas. I can eat two cups of beans - without the spices - and barely a blip on the gas-o-meter.

Onions cause me more gas; garlic a bit less. If those are cooked, not so much of a problem, but raw, and I'm in trouble (or at least indoors, away from people) the next day.

See if there's something you've been adding to the beans that could be causing the gas.

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