Refined Carb Intake’s Effect on Facial Attractiveness

Summary: A new study reveals a statistical connection between the consumption of refined carbohydrates and decreased facial attractiveness, as judged by heterosexual volunteers of the opposite sex. Participants who consumed a high-glycemic breakfast, rich in refined carbohydrates, were rated as less attractive than those who had a low-glycemic meal.

This research, involving 104 French adults, adds to the growing body of evidence suggesting that diet, specifically the intake of refined carbohydrates found in the Western diet, may impact non-medical traits such as attractiveness. The study also observed sex-specific differences in how snack consumption affects attractiveness, highlighting the complex relationship between diet and social perceptions.

Key Facts:

  1. Diet-Attractiveness Link: Consumption of a high-glycemic breakfast led to lower facial attractiveness ratings, suggesting a direct impact of diet on perceived attractiveness.
  2. Sex-Specific Differences: The study uncovered gender differences in attractiveness ratings related to snack consumption, with men and women responding differently to high-energy and high-glycemic intakes.
  3. Broader Implications: These findings underscore the need for further research to explore how refined carbohydrates may influence attractiveness and other social traits, beyond their known health effects.

Source: PLOS

In a new study, participants’ levels of consumption of refined carbohydrates were statistically linked with their facial attractiveness as rated by heterosexual volunteers of the opposite sex.

Visine and colleagues at the University of Montpellier, France, present these findings in the open-access journal PLOS ONE on March 6, 2024.

This shows a woman and pasta.
Chronic consumption of refined carbohydrates during breakfast and snacks was also associated with lower attractiveness ratings, although consumption of high-energy foods at these times was associated with higher attractiveness ratings. Credit: Neuroscience News

The Western diet consists of high levels of refined carbohydrates—foods processed in ways that typically remove much of their nutritional value, such as white flour, table sugar, and ingredients in many packaged snacks.

Prior research has linked increased consumption of refined carbohydrates with adverse health effects, such as obesity, type II diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases.

Preliminary evidence has suggested that consuming high levels of refined carbohydrates might also affect non-medical traits, such as a person’s attractiveness.

To further explore this possibility, Visine and colleagues conducted a study involving 104 French male and female adults.

The researchers gave some of the participants a high-glycemic breakfast—one with refined carbohydrates known to boost blood sugar levels—while others received a low-glycemic breakfast.

The participants also completed a questionnaire to evaluate their typical habits of consumption of refined carbohydrates. Additional heterosexual volunteers were then asked to rate the facial attractiveness of opposite-sex participants as captured in photos taken two hours after the provided breakfast.

Only participants and volunteers with four grandparents of European origin were included in this research, to reduce cultural heterogeneity.

Statistical analysis showed that consuming the high-glycemic breakfast was associated with lower subsequent facial attractiveness ratings for both men and women.

Chronic consumption of refined carbohydrates during breakfast and snacks was also associated with lower attractiveness ratings, although consumption of high-energy foods at these times was associated with higher attractiveness ratings.

The researchers noted some sex differences: for afternoon snacking in men specifically, high-energy intake was instead associated with lower attractiveness ratings, while high-glycemic intake was linked to higher attractiveness ratings.

All results held true after statistically accounting for other factors that could affect attractiveness, such as actual age, perceived age, BMI, smoking habits, and facial hairiness.

Further research, including for larger and more diverse sample sizes, is needed to deepen understanding of exactly how refined carbohydrates may be linked to attractiveness and other social traits.

The authors add: “Facial attractiveness, an important factor of social interactions, seems to be impacted by immediate and chronic refined carbohydrate consumption in men and women.”

Funding: This work was supported by Agence Nationale pour la Recherche “HUMANWAY” project (ANR-12- BSV7-0008-01). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

About this diet and attraction research news

Author: Hanna Abdallah
Source: PLOS
Contact: Hanna Abdallah – PLOS
Image: The image is credited to Neuroscience News

Original Research: Open access.
Chronic and immediate refined carbohydrate consumption and facial attractiveness” by Visine A et al. PLOS ONE


Chronic and immediate refined carbohydrate consumption and facial attractiveness

The Western diet has undergone a massive switch since the second half of the 20th century, with the massive increase of the consumption of refined carbohydrate associated with many adverse health effects.

The physiological mechanisms linked to this consumption, such as hyperglycaemia and hyperinsulinemia, may impact non medical traits such as facial attractiveness.

To explore this issue, the relationship between facial attractiveness and immediate and chronic refined carbohydrate consumption estimated by glycemic load was studied for 104 French subjects.

Facial attractiveness was assessed by opposite sex raters using pictures taken two hours after a controlled breakfast. Chronic consumption was assessed considering three high glycemic risk meals: breakfast, afternoon snacking and between-meal snacking.

Immediate consumption of a high glycemic breakfast decreased facial attractiveness for men and women while controlling for several control variables, including energy intake. Chronic refined carbohydrate consumption had different effects on attractiveness depending on the meal and/or the sex.

Chronic refined carbohydrate consumption, estimated by the glycemic load, during the three studied meals reduced attractiveness, while a high energy intake increased it.

Nevertheless, the effect was reversed for men concerning the afternoon snack, for which a high energy intake reduced attractiveness and a high glycemic load increased it.

These effects were maintained when potential confounders for facial attractiveness were controlled such as age, age departure from actual age, masculinity/femininity (perceived and measured), BMI, physical activity, parental home ownership, smoking, couple status, hormonal contraceptive use (for women), and facial hairiness (for men).

Results were possibly mediated by an increase in age appearance for women and a decrease in perceived masculinity for men. The physiological differences between the three meals studied and the interpretation of the results from an adaptive/maladaptive point of view in relation to our new dietary environment are discussed.

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  1. I find no truth to this. I am 58 years old and told that I look like I am in my 30s. I am a very poor eater and always been a poor eater. Not until now at age 58 am I starting to see any signs of gray hair or wrinkles.

  2. What does this have to do with neuroscience? This is a ridiculous study and it is offensive that anybody is wasting money on studying this when there are actual neurological diseases and disorders to study.

    1. I agree with all the comments! What were the foods? Also, why was the study limited to heterosexuals? Would adding a gay or 2 make it too complicated?

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