Beauty and the Body of the Beholder: Raters’ BMI Has Only Limited Association with Ratings of Attractiveness of the Opposite Sex

Guanlin Wang, Chima A. Ekeleme-Egedigwe, Asmaa El Hamdouchi, Justina Sauciuvenaite, Ruth Bissland, Kurosh Djafarian, Robert Ojiambo, Harris Ramuth, Sandra Holasek, Sonja Lackner, Adama Diouf, Catherine Hambly, Lobke M. Vaanholt, Minxuan Cao, Megan Hacker, Herculina S. Kruger, Tumelo Seru, Mark D. Faries, John R. Speakman
  • Obesity, February 2018, Wiley
  • DOI: 10.1002/oby.22092

Peoples ratings of physical attractiveness are not related to their own level of obesity

What is it about?

We know that people with obesity are more likely to end up in relationships with other people that have obesity: called assortative mating. This is important because offspring from such liaisons have a double dose of obesity risk alelles. Yet the reasons why this happens are unclear. One hypothesis is called the mutual attraction hypothesis which suggests people with obesity find others with obesity more attractive than lean people. This study involved populations in Asia, Africa, Europe and the USA and shows that in none of these populations is it the case that people with obesity systematically find other people with obesity more attractive than lean subjects. hence the mutual attraction hypothesis can be rejected.

Why is it important?

Offspring of liaisons where both partners have obesity have a much greater risk of developing obesity themselves. Understanding why assortative mating for obesity happens may allow us to devise strategies to disrupt it.


Professor John Speakman

Although on average leaner subjects are seen as more attractive than subjects with obesity this average pattern obscures enormous individual variation in preferences. Some people prefer individuals with intermediate adiposity and yet others find individuals with obesity the most attractive. A positive message from this study then is that everyone whatever their level of adiposity is physically attractive to someone.

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