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Evol Psychol. 2018 Oct-Dec;16(4):1474704918800063. doi: 10.1177/1474704918800063.

Do the Low WHRs and BMIs Judged Most Attractive Indicate Higher Fertility?

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1 Department of Anthropology, University of California at Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA, USA.


We examine the widely accepted view that very low waist-hip ratios and low body mass indices (BMIs) in women in well-nourished populations are judged attractive by men because these features reliably indicate superior fertility. In both subsistence and well-nourished populations, relevant studies of fertility do not support this view. Rather studies indicate lower fertility in women with anthropometric values associated with high attractiveness. Moreover, low maternal BMI predisposes to conditions that compromise infant survival. Consistent with these findings from the literature, new data from a large U.S. sample of women past reproductive age show that women with lower BMIs in the late teens had fewer live births, controlling for education, marital history, and race. They also had later menarche and earlier menopause compared with women with higher youth BMIs. In addition, data from the 2013 U.S. natality database show that mothers with lower prepregnancy BMIs have an increased risk of producing both low-birth-weight and preterm infants controlling for other relevant variables-conditions that would have adversely affected fitness over almost all of human evolution. Thus, a review of the relevant literature and three new tests fail to support the view that highly attractive women are more fertile.


body mass index; fertility; health; nubility; waist circumference; waist–hip ratio

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