Curvy women are more intelligent

Research at the Universities of Pittsburg and California, Santa Barbara using data from a study of 16,325 ladies suggests that women with an hourglass figure are likely to have a higher IQ than their leaner counterparts.

The study compared the results of a cogitative test with the waist to hip ratio (WHR) measurement for the women. Not only did the ladies with the greatest differences between the waist and hip measurements score higher on these tests, but so did their children.

Why, you might well ask, would any conduct research into this in the first place?

The answer is that the study was really focusing on the levels of fatty acids present in women that are beneficial for the brain development of their children. The measurement of the waist to hip ratio is simply a convenient way of describing this as lower-body fat has a positive effect on the production of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids whereas upper body fat has a negative effect. More specifically, the research found that fat around a woman's hips and thighs hold higher levels of omega 3 fatty acids, which are essential for brain growth during pregnancy, than the fat around the waist, which contains higher levels of omega 6 fatty acids, which are less suited to brain growth.

There has of course been much written about the advantages of omega 3 in the last 10 years with supplements increasingly taking up more space on the vitamin shelves of chemist and pharmacy outlets. Some of the research has been in relation to cardio-vascular health, but other research has been on effect omega 3 can have on a child's ability to concentrate in school lessons and on the importance it plays in the development of the foetal and infant brain.

The conclusion of this research project was that the reason for the association between waist-hip ratio and intelligence could be explained by the fact that women with larger hips and thighs also had higher naturally occurring levels of omega 3 fatty acid. This contrasted with the cognitive abilities of teenage mothers whose bodies tend to have a lower waist to hip ratio and whose children performed less well in cognitive tests.

The reason fat levels affect the foetus is because all of the nutrients it needs for its development must come from its mother. In the case of teenage mothers whose bodies and still developing, the foetus and its mother are competing for the same nutrients. In young women who have more of an hour-glass figure, there is more omega 3 to go round and, as the research found, their offspring tend to perform better in tests of cognitive ability.

A number of other scientific studies have shown that men are "hard-wired" to find women with a greater waist-hip differential the most attractive. No one has yet been able to explain this, although theories include enhanced fertility, better childbearing abilities and longer life expectancy. Possibly this study provides an additional explanation - it's because natural selection gives men a predisposition to select the women who will provide the most intelligent offspring.

However, if you see a man drooling over a "Page 3" model, I am not convinced that it is the intelligence of her children that will be uppermost in his mind!

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The research was published in the Journal of Evolution and Human Behaviour. Click here to read it or to download a copy.

Published June 2009

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