Is Meat The Cause of your B.O?

Onion pits? Or Meat sweats?

woman with workout top and mask

Hi my name Melissa, and sometimes I have armpit BO that would make angels cry. I’m just kidding, it’s not that bad lol. Two years ago I was taking a plant-based nutrition course as a part of my master’s program in Functional Medicine. I had given up all animal proteins and noticed some positive and negative changes in my body during that month. The negative was, I had to eat about every 2 hours to keep my blood sugar stable and had massive blood sugar moodiness, crashes and headaches if I deviated from that 2 hour window. The positive was that when my armpits would perspire, there was no smell!

This got me thinking…even if I am eating the finest grass-fed, organic meats I can buy, am I still being exposed to hormones that naturally occur in the animal meat? And is that what is coming out of my sweat?

My father and I have this weird thing where if we drink too much coffee it makes our armpits sweat smell more, but I noticed when I was vegan even if I had coffee my pits were s still smelling akin to cherub-like rosebuds.

I scoured the medical journals…*meat consumption and B.O that smells like death*…..*meat consumption and onion pits*…..until I found one. “The Effect of Meat Consumption on Body Odor Attractiveness” published in the Journal of Chem. Senses, 2006. I figured, if I have this happening to me then many other people must have this too and not realize it.

Meat eaters vs. Non-Meat eaters 


In this study (1), the scientists had 17 men placed on a non-meat diet or meat diet for 2 weeks. During the final 24 hours, they wore pads under their armpits to collect their body odor sweat. The odor samples were assessed for pleasantness, attractiveness, masculinity, and intensity by 30 women who were not on any hormones or birth control.

Then 1 month later the same experiment was completed but the scientists switched the diets, each man now ate the opposite diet than before. The results showed the sweat of the non-meat eaters was judged as significantly more attractive, more pleasant, and less intense/stinky.

The study concluded that red meat consumption can have a negative impact on perceived body odor. The study was not able to extend these findings to “white” meat of poultry and fish, but only that of red meat.

Zeng et al., 1991 describes the reason for the change in odor with meat consumption is because of the fat proportion in the meat. Examination of the armpit sweat chemicals found both saturated and unsaturated fatty acids.

Sweat and Attractiveness: 

The scent of our body is like our own personal fragrance, giving off pheromones of sexiness and recognition to those who know us. A mother can recognize the scent of their offspring 2 days after delivery and fathers can recognize their own babies’ smell apart from another baby at around 3 weeks.

Body odor also plays a role in what type of person you find sexually attractive. Some of this is genetic, as odor preferences are correlated with the genes you inherit in your major histocompatibility complex (MHC). These genes have to do with the resiliency of the immune system. Multiple studies have found women found the smell of men who have the least similar MHC to their own as the most attractive. Why is that? On a primal level, you crave the scent of someone who is most different from you because the offspring will potentially be more viable (2)(3). *ohhh suddenly my boyfriend choices make sense*


In one experiment, 44 men were selected based on their different MHC types and they were instructed to wear a t-shirt for 2 nights. Then, 49 women were instructed to smell the t-shirts of the men and describe the pleasantness, sexiness, intensity.

Overall the women preferred the t-shirts of men whose MHC genes were most different from them (3). One theory is this characteristic evolved to avoid inbreeding. Another theory is this evolved because more variations in MHC genes produce offsprings with more immunocompetence/resiliency against different parasite types (4).





woman in pink robe

As for women, body odor can change across the menstrual cycle. During the phases of a 28-day cycle, you have peaks of estrogens and peaks of progesterone before menstruation. Multiple studies found that women’s body odor peaks in attractiveness to men when a woman is ovulating (4).

There seems to be a multitude of factors influencing the scent of our bodies, diet, hormones, genetics, caffeine intake, smoking. The outer expression is a reflection of the inner state – scent included!







  2. Wedekind C, Fu¨ ri S. 1997. Body odour preferences in men and women: do
    they aim for specific MHC combinations or simply heterozygosity? Proc R
    Soc Lond B 264:1471–9
  3. Wedekind C, Seebeck T, Bettens F, Paepke AJ. 1995. MHC-dependent mate
    preference in humans. Proc R Soc Lond B 260:245–9.
  5. My own armpits

Author: Melissa Mullin

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