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Beauty and immunity: natural bedfellows

March 28, 2022

Looks do matter, at least when it comes to immune system performance, suggests a new study.

Nearly 160 Texas college students recently posed for headshots and provided blood samples, and those rated more attractive had better performance in some aspects of their immune system.

“[T]his work suggests complex, often sex-differentiated relationships between immune function, health, and attractiveness,” study authors wrote in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Attractiveness is universal

“The results of the current research suggest that facial attractiveness may provide insights into one’s immune function, particularly as it relates to one’s ability to efficiently combat (primarily) bacterial threats,” the researchers concluded. “Additionally, for men, facial attractiveness may also provide cues to their ability to efficiently manage viral threats and neoplastic growth.”

In both sexes, attractive participants reportedly had higher rates of phagocytosis, the process by which specific white blood cells ingest foreign particle like bacteria.

‘Just following their instincts’

So. That means looks matter, but do they matter a lot?

Summer Mengelkoch, who led the study, told the Daily Mail: “People who go out to a bar looking to talk to someone attractive are often dismissed as being shallow and told, ‘It is not all about looks.’ But they are really just following their instincts to find a high-quality mate.”

On the other hand, modern medicine may have minimized the benefits of such a pursuit. “Infections are not as deadly as they used to be,” she added, “so perhaps it’s OK if people lower their standards and start to give people who are less attractive a shot,” she stated.

This research was informed by blood samples and immune cells, both products available to researchers through the iSpecimen Marketplace.  Research organizations using the Marketplace can filter collections by specific age, gender, race, blood type, BMI, smoking status, medical history, family history, and more.

The world loves a pretty face, but when it comes to medical progress, science trumps all.

Learn about the iSpecimen Marketplace where you can browse millions of richly annotated, de-identified human tissue and biofluid biospecimens, in addition to hematopoietic and immune cell products and COVID-19 samples. You can join for free.