Patterns of subcutaneous fat deposition and the relationship between body mass index and waist-to-hip ratio: Implications for models of physical attractiveness

Cornelissen, P. L. and Tovee, M. J. and Bateson, M. (2009) Patterns of subcutaneous fat deposition and the relationship between body mass index and waist-to-hip ratio: Implications for models of physical attractiveness. Journal of Theoretical Biology, 256 (3). pp. 343-350. ISSN 0022-5193

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Abstract

Body mass index (BMI) and waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) are two widely used anthropometric indices of body shape argued to convey different information about health and fertility. Both indices have also been shown to affect attractiveness ratings of female bodies. However, BMI and WHR are naturally positively correlated, complicating studies designed to identify their relative importance in predicting health and attractiveness outcomes. We show that the correlation between BMI and WHR depends on the assumed model of subcutaneous fat deposition. An additive model, whereby fat is added to the waist and hips at a constant rate, predicts a correlation between BMI and WHR because with increasing fat, the difference between the waist and hips becomes smaller relative to total width. This model is supported by longitudinal and cross-sectional data. We parameterised the function relating WHR to BMI for white UK females of reproductive age, and used this function to statistically decompose body shape into two independent components. We show that judgements of the attractiveness of female bodies are well explained by the component of curvaceousness related to BMI but not by residual curvaceousness. Our findings resolve a long-standing dispute in the attractiveness literature by confirming that although WHR appears to be an important predictor of attractiveness, this is largely explained by the direct effect of total body fat on WHR, thus reinforcing the conclusion that total body fat is the primary determinant of female body shape attractiveness.

Keywords:Anthropometric indices, Health outcomes, Fertility, Female attractiveness, Body shape, Curvaceousness, Waist-to-hip ratio, Fat
Subjects:C Biological Sciences > C800 Psychology
C Biological Sciences > C850 Cognitive Psychology
C Biological Sciences > C830 Experimental Psychology
C Biological Sciences > C841 Health Psychology
C Biological Sciences > C880 Social Psychology
C Biological Sciences > C840 Clinical Psychology
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Psychology
ID Code:24423
Deposited On:03 Jul 2017 08:43

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