Waist-to-hip ratio across cultures: trade-offs between androgen- and estrogen-dependent traits

Update item information
Publication Type Journal Article
School or College College of Social & Behavioral Science
Department Anthropology
Creator Cashdan, Elizabeth A.
Title Waist-to-hip ratio across cultures: trade-offs between androgen- and estrogen-dependent traits
Date 2008
Description A gynoid pattern of fat distribution, with small waist and large hips (low waist-to-hip ratio, or WHR) holds significant fitness benefits for women: women with a low WHR of about 0.7 are more fecund, are less prone to chronic disease, and (in most cultures) are considered more attractive. Why, then, do nearly all women have a WHR higher than this putative optimum? Is the marked variation in this trait adaptive? This paper first documents the conundrum by showing that female WHR, especially in non-Western populations, is higher than the putative optimum even among samples that are young, lean, and dependent on traditional diets. The paper then proposes compensating benefits to a high WHR that can explain both its prevalence and variation in the trait. The evidence indicates that the hormonal profile associated with highWHR (high androgen and cortisol levels, low estrogens) favors success in resource competition, particularly under stressful and difficult circumstances, even though this carries fitness costs in fecundity and health. Adrenal androgens, in particular,may play an important role in enabling women to respond to stressful challenges.
Type Text
Publisher University of Chicago Press - Journals
Volume 49
Issue 6
First Page 1099
Last Page 1107
Subject Fat distribution; Gynoid pattern; Body types; Waist-to-hip ratio; WHR
Subject LCSH Man-woman relationships; Physical anthropology
Language eng
Bibliographic Citation Cashdan, E. A. (2008). Waist-to-hip ratio across cultures: trade-offs between androgen- and estrogen-dependent traits. Current Anthropology, 49(6), 1099-107.
Rights Management (c) University of Chicago Press http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/
Format Medium application/pdf
Format Extent 222,203 bytes
Identifier ir-main,7883
ARK ark:/87278/s6xp7pb6
Setname ir_uspace
Date Created 2012-06-13
Date Modified 2012-06-13
ID 705207
Reference URL https://collections.lib.utah.edu/ark:/87278/s6xp7pb6