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A Breakfast High in Refined Carbs Could Make You Less Attractive, Study Suggests

A croissant among others.
Credit: Sergio Arze/Unsplash
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Want to look your best in the morning? Maybe avoid the processed pastry and opt for a slice of wholemeal bread.

Why? Because researchers in France found that people who ate a breakfast rich in processed carbohydrates were deemed to have less attractive faces than those who ate less refined meals.

The findings were published in PLOS One.

Facial attraction

To study the effects that “recent Western dietary changes” may be having on facial attractiveness, researchers from the University of Montpellier recruited 104 study participants (52 men, 52 women) from public places around the city.

To reduce “cultural heterogeneity,” only heterosexual people with four grandparents of European origin were included in the study. All participants were aged between 20 and 30.

The participants were randomly assigned different breakfast types to consume. All meals contained 500 calories, but some were purposefully assembled to be high in refined carbohydrates (a baguette with Nutella and coffee with sugar cubes) while others were high in less-refined carbohydrates (whole meal bread with butter and coffee without sugar).

The volunteers had blood samples and photographs taken before and after eating the meals.

Blood sugar levels were tested while their headshots were given to other participants to rate based on attractiveness, estimated age and perceived levels of masculinity or femininity.

Those who ate the less refined breakfasts were, on average, considered more attractive.

Why? The researchers posit that breakfasts rich in processed carbohydrates could lead to an immediate spike in blood sugar levels, which would be countered by the body’s release of insulin. In turn, this could generate hypoglycemia, a process that interferes with growth factors and sex hormones, which can affect morphology and secondary sex characteristics.

The participants were also asked to snack on the same kind of carbohydrates in the afternoon. These bites, however, proved to have different effects for different sexes.

“In our experiment, breakfast resulting in an increase in attractiveness comprised mainly fates and proteins (such as dairy) with few refined carbohydrates,” said Claire Berticat, a research assistant at the Institute of Evolutionary Sciences at the University of Montpellier.

“Afternoon snacking fulfills a real food need for many. It leads to a drop in plasma glucose and insulin levels, motivating eating. Men consuming high glycemic load snacks during this time may appear more attractive due to the immediate glucose boost. However, for women, high glycemic load snacks in the afternoon may lead to a negative effect on attractiveness, possibly due to an older appearance linked to hyperglycemia’s aging effects on the skin.”

Berticat says further research is needed to investigate which other social traits could be affected by refined carbohydrate consumption.

Reference: Visine A, Durand V, Guillou L, Raymond M, Berticat C. Chronic and immediate refined carbohydrate consumption and facial attractiveness. PLOS ONE. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0298984