Diet quality and the attractiveness of male body odor

Andrea Zuniga, Richard J. Stevenson*, Mehmut K. Mahmut, Ian D. Stephen

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    22 Citations (Scopus)


    Human axillary sweat may provide information pertaining to genetic relatedness and health status. A significant contributor to good health, both in the short and longer term, is a diet rich in fruit and vegetables. In this study we tested whether dietary fruit and vegetable intake, assessed indirectly by skin spectrophotometry (assessing dietary carotenoid intakes) and subjectively by food frequency questionnaire, was associated with more pleasant smelling sweat. Male participants provided axillary sweat samples and dietary information. Female participants then evaluated these samples on several affective, qualitative and psychophysical dimensions. The skin spectrophotometry measure (CIELab b*), indicative of greater fruit and vegetable intake, was significantly associated with more pleasant smelling sweat (with more floral, fruity, sweet and medicinal qualities), independent of sweat intensity. Self-report dietary data revealed that fat, meat, egg and tofu intake was associated with more pleasant smelling sweat, and greater carbohydrate intake with stronger smelling less pleasant sweat. These data parallel facial judgments, in which yellower more carotenoid rich skin, is found to be more attractive.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)136-143
    Number of pages8
    JournalEvolution and Human Behavior
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017


    • Body odor
    • Carotenoids
    • Diet
    • Health signal
    • Mate choice
    • Mate quality


    Dive into the research topics of 'Diet quality and the attractiveness of male body odor'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this