How does diet affect body odor?

Breathtaking -- for some people.
Breathtaking -- for some people.
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Who doesn't love a good, perfectly cooked steak? OK, vegetarians don't. And cows probably don't, either.

There are benefits and drawbacks to a diet that includes red meat and a seemingly endless debate over eating it. Red meat is packed with iron and protein, important sources of nutrients and essential to tissue and muscle fiber. On the other hand, a recent landmark study of 500,000 Americans found that the people who eat the most red meat are more likely to die (especially from cancer and heart disease) than the people who eat the least [source: Brody].

The study results are probably far from surprising for some; other smaller and less refined studies have yielded similar results for decades. This hasn't stopped American's love for red meat, though; rates of meat consumption have doubled in the country since the 1960s.

But there's another study out there that might give red meat eaters pause. In 2006, an anthropological study carried out by researchers in the Czech Republic found that meat eaters smell worse than their vegetarian counterparts.

The researchers collected samples of the natural body odors emitted by male meat and non-meat eaters over a two-week period. After they had their stores of used underarm pads assembled, the researchers presented them to a group of 30 women who smelled and rated the attractiveness of the odor on each pad. When the results were tallied, the non-meat eaters' odors were "judged as significantly more attractive, more pleasant and less intense" [source: Havlicek, et al].

Why should this be? The old adage you are what you eat makes sense, but the idea that what you smell like depends on what you eat is slightly less self-evident. How can a certain type of food or diet affect your body odor? To find out, first we'll look at the science of sweating.