According to a new study published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior, women with a 'low waist-to-hip ratio (WHRs)' - commonly known as an 'hourglass figure' - are seen to have the most attractive bodies.
Interestingly, this is because the body shape is a sign of "physical and sexual maturity in young women who have not been pregnant."
“Because evolution depends entirely on individual success in reproducing, anything to do with reproduction, such as choosing a mate, should be optimised by natural selection,” explains William D. Lassek, study author and a researcher in the Department of Anthropology at the University of California at Santa Barbara.
“Thus understanding the reasons why men find certain women attractive should help us better understand human evolution. The two elements which have been the subject of most research are women’s waist/hip ratios (WHRs) and body mass indices (BMIs).”
In their research, scientists examined data from more than 12,000 female participants in two National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (US-based studies that explore the health and nutritional state of affairs of adults and children).
Findings suggest that women with low WHRs have better reproductive potential. Researchers also noted that younger females with lower waist-to-stature ratios displayed higher levels of omega-3 docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) as well, a nutrient crucial during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
“For the past 30 years the explanation for male preferences that has generally been accepted is that they look for signs of health and fertility, but we have shown that the very small waist sizes and low BMIs linked with attractiveness in well-nourished women do not indicate better health or fertility,” Lassek tells PsyPost.
“What they do indicate is that a woman is likely to be young (15-19), has never been pregnant, and has maximal stores of brain building fatty acids. In groups where women have less food and are heavier in their teens, men prefer the higher BMIs that indicate youth. The preference of men for younger women will probably come as no surprise to most women.
“Highly attractive women tend to be 2-4 inches taller than average. We are working on trying to understand why. Also we believe that young women with attractive WHRs and BMIs may be better able to survive a first pregnancy when modern obstetric care is unavailable,” Lassek concludes.