The effect of complete caloric intake restriction on human body odour quality

Physiol Behav. 2019 Oct 15;210:112554. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2019.05.015. Epub 2019 May 23.


Previous studies on various vertebrates have shown that quantity and quality of food intake affect odour attractiveness as perceived by potential mates. In humans, the quality of body odour is similarly affected by ingested foods, such as by variation in meat and garlic intake. Nevertheless, it is not known whether quantity of food has an impact on human body odour attractiveness. Thus, here we tested how 48 h of complete caloric intake restriction affects the hedonic quality of human axillary odour. Odour samples (cotton pads fixed in both armpits and worn for 12 h) were obtained from healthy female donors across three conditions: i) during their habitual food regime; ii) after 48 h of complete caloric intake restriction (drinking water was provided), and iii) 72 h after restoration of caloric intake. Axillary samples were assessed by male raters regarding their pleasantness, attractiveness, femininity, and intensity. We also collected blood samples to assess physiological changes due to dietary restriction (e.g., glucose, sodium, albumin, and triacylglyceride assays) and anthropometric measurements at the same intervals as body odour samples. We found no differences in pleasantness, attractiveness and intensity between the odour samples collected at baseline and during complete caloric intake restriction. Interestingly, we found that body odours were rated more pleasant, more attractive and less intense after restoration of food intake as compared to the baseline and during caloric restriction. Our results suggest that restoration of food intake positively influences hedonic quality of human body odour which might thus provide cues to current fitness status and metabolic efficiency.

Keywords: Affective states; BMI; Diet; Fasting; Olfaction; Smell.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Affect
  • Anthropometry
  • Body Composition
  • Body Mass Index
  • Caloric Restriction*
  • Eating
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Odorants*
  • Young Adult