Clearer skin, more energy, better digestion, and a flatter tummy — these were the promises that were made to me when I went vegan in 2011. I was skeptical of every last one of them, but after sticking with the diet for a couple of weeks, I started to notice all of these changes, and things just got better and better the longer I ate plant-based foods.
There was one strange side effect of going vegan, though, that really took me by surprise. After being on a whole-foods, plant-based diet for several months, I realized that my body odor completely changed. It first occurred to me when I forgot to put on deodorant before an endurance running class, a place where I'm guaranteed to sweat my ass off. I left the class drenched as usual, but when I lifted my arms to take off my sports bra, I realized that there was no aroma whatsoever coming from my armpit.
To make sure it wasn't just a happy coincidence, I deliberately left my deodorant in the medicine cabinet over the next couple of days and did all my workouts sans armpit coverage. Much to my surprise, there wasn't a single day when I noticed a gross smell coming from my body.
I had heard from various people before I went vegan that this was a common side effect of adopting this kind of diet, but I usually brushed it off as plant-based propaganda. But there seems to be some evidence out there suggesting that this is to be expected.
Researchers at Charles University in Prague, for example, conducted a study on a group of participants, giving them meals with meat for two weeks and vegetarian meals for another two weeks. They gathered the body odor from participating men and let women smell it and give their feedback. They discovered that women found men's scents to be much more sexually attractive and pleasant in general when they were eating meals without any meat. Clearly, body odor is affected by what you put into your body, especially when it comes to animal products.
This doesn't surprise me at all, because my boyfriend, who has been vegan for two years, is a marathon runner, and every time he comes back from a distance run covered in sweat, I never smell anything off-putting from him. In fact, I've never smelled any body odor from him that has made me wrinkle my nose. I think that's a better indicator than my own scents, because sometimes you don't really know what you smell like until someone else gives you feedback.
There are a lot of days when I still forget to put on my natural deodorant, and I never worry that I'm going to stink up the room, even if I'm at the gym. It might be a very unexpected side effect of veganism, but it's one I'm happy to accept.