The ugly truth about refined carbohydrates

3 minute read

A new study suggests highly processed foods negatively affect your dating prospects, as well as your overall health.

“You don’t deserve [to be attractive]… You eat CARBS, for Christ’s sake!” – Emily Charlton, The Devil Wears Prada 

Modern Western diets often include large amounts of highly processed and refined foods. And while they taste so good, many people – including The Back Page – will be aware that going too hard on processed foods has been linked to a swathe of negative health outcomes like obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s.  

But a new study, published in PLoS One, suggests consuming refined carbohydrates, both in the short- and long-term, also has a negative impact on perceived facial attractiveness

French researchers invited 104 volunteers (52 women) without face tattoos to participate in a study on diet, where they were asked to come into the lab early in the morning after not eating breakfast. 

The volunteers randomly received a breakfast containing either refined (e.g., baked goods, white bread) or unrefined (e.g., fruits, wholegrains) carbohydrates and completed a diet questionnaire about their usual eating habits, including how often they ate refined carbs. All subjects were photographed approximately two hours after finishing their breakfast.  

An additional 250 volunteers then rated how attractive the photographed subjects were, with men rating female subjects and women rating the male subjects.  

After crunching the numbers, researchers found both men and women who ate the breakfast full of refined carbs were rated as less attractive compared to the volunteers who received the unrefined carbs. 

Individuals who reported they were chronic consumers of refined carbs didn’t fare much better than their acutely refined carbo-loaded counterparts, although these ratings did vary depending on the meal in question (breakfast, lunch or an afternoon snack) and/or the sex of the eater and the rater. 

“Men consuming high glycemic load snacks during [the afternoon] may appear more attractive due to the immediate glucose boost,” the researchers told media. 

“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.” 

Researchers also blame the hyperinsulinemia caused by chowing down on too many refined carbohydrates for the changes in perceived attractiveness. 

“Among other things, hyperinsulinemia modulates growth factors and sex hormones, interfering with morphology and secondary sex characteristics,” they wrote.  

The associations remained after controlling for other factors that could impact attractiveness, including actual and perceived age, BMI, smoking habits and facial hairiness.  

Turns out Dr Atkins might have been on to something.  

Send your post-carb consumption selfies to to find out how attractive you are. 

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