Here at Seeker World Headquarters, we humbly endeavor to facilitate science in all its glory. That sometimes means perusing scholarly articles like The Effect of Meat Consumption on Body Odor Attractiveness. We do it because we care.
To that end, Amy Shira-Teitel checks in with today's DNews dispatch concerning the whys and wherefores of body odor.
First things first: The singular aroma we typically refer to as body odor does not actually come from our bodies, technically speaking. It comes from a wide variety of bacteria that hang around on the surface of our skin. When that bacteria finds a suitable moist environment -- your armpits, say -- it starts eating certain compounds found in perspiration and ejects airborne molecules. Those molecules are to blame for body odor. Perspiration itself is actually odorless.
Olfactory unpleasantness occurs when bacteria and sweat trigger chemical reactions on the surface of your skin. And since skin is our largest body organ -- about 21 square feet on average -- it provides a veritable ecosystem for bacteria. (If you're curious, you can calculate your own body surface area here.)
RELATED: How Does Our Skin Turn Sunlight Into Vitamin D?
The skin also hosts loads of sweat glands, which continuously bathe our skin in a salt water secretion whose acidity is key to warding off certain microorganisms. So there's really no way around the fact that perspiration and bacteria will inevitably get together.
However, not all people smell the same when they sweat, a phenomenon you can confirm for yourself on public transportation systems the world over.
Diet is a major component in determining body odor. Foods like broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower, which are high in sulfur, release particularly potent compounds when you sweat. Alcohol also has a distinctive odor that comes out through your sweat glands. And eating meat has an effect on body odor. One study actually found that the sweat of vegetarian men smells more appealing to women than that of other more carnivorous suitors. Science knows this. Science has studied this.
One interesting detail: Experiments have shown that the particular odor given off my a specific food starts to manifest in sweat about one hour after consumption. The effect then dissipates after around six hours.
So plan accordingly, go forth with this knowledge, and proper.
-- Glenn McDonald
National Library Of Medicine: The Skin Microbiome
Berkley University Of California: Can Food Cause Body Odor?
Oxford Journals: The Effect Of Meat Consumption On Body Odor Attractiveness