November 11, 2007

Waist-hip-ratio of mothers and children's intelligence

There is a related story in the New Scientist about the following article.

Evolution and Human Behavior (in press)

Waist-hip ratio and cognitive ability: is gluteofemoral fat a privileged store of neurodevelopmental resources?

William D. Lassek, Steven J.C. Gaulin


Upper-body fat has negative effects and lower-body fat has positive effects on the supply of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids that are essential for neurodevelopment. Thus, waist-hip ratio (WHR), a useful proxy for the ratio of upper-body fat to lower-body fat, should predict cognitive ability in women and their offspring. Moreover, because teenage mothers and their children compete for these resources, their cognitive development should be compromised, but less so for mothers with lower WHRs. These predictions are supported by data from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Controlling for other correlates of cognitive ability, women with lower WHRs and their children have significantly higher cognitive test scores, and teenage mothers with lower WHRs and their children are protected from cognitive decrements associated with teen births. These findings support the idea that WHR reflects the availability of neurodevelopmental resources and thus offer a new explanation for men's preference for low WHR.

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