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The secret to beauty is good health

A recent study has revealed an unhealthy double-standard when it comes female and male attractiveness and body size.

The Macquarie University study published in PLOS ONE found unhealthily thin women are seen as most attractive, while men are considered better looking when they are a healthy weight.

Sixty-three male and female participants were asked to manipulate images of women to depict what they considered to be attractive. Participants of both sexes selected a body composition of around 19 per cent fat as healthy and just 16 per cent as most attractive for women. The healthy body fat range for young Caucasian women is 21-33 per cent, according to the study.  When asked to manipulate an image of a man, the participants chose a normal body composition to depict both health and attractiveness.

Research group leader Ian Stephenson says attractiveness is supposed to help humans identify a healthy, fertile mate.  This is reinforced by the study participants’ attitudes toward male subjects but goes off course when it comes to females.

So it looks like culturally manufactured beauty ideals, when it comes to women, have bypassed our natural biological processes.  Bizarre.

The study was very small and I hope it’s not representative of widely-held perceptions because the ramifications for women’s health are alarming.

Being underweight is associated with a raft of long-term health problems for women, from infertility to brittle bones and compromised immunity. The idea that having a body composition that potentially puts health at risk and shortens life span is considered more attractive shows some very faulty thinking.

I think it’s time we all start promoting health as an ideal for women.  Being in good health makes your skin clearer, your hair shinier and your mood better, meaning you smile more and what can be more beautiful than that?

Date modified: February 17 2021
First published: Aug 2016

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