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Ultra-slim models 'are preferred by women'

The fashion industry found a new ally yesterday in the battle over its use of skinny models - women. Researchers at the University of Bath said women preferred models with the slimmest figures.

Top designers have spoken out against the use of ultra-slender models, while Madrid Council imposed a ban on models with a body mass index of less than 18 at its fashion week.

But the Bath University study of 470 female undergraduates found that two thirds preferred advertisements with slimmer models. Professor Brett Martin, from the university's School of Management, said thin models were seen as successful in managing their weight. The results suggested that as the women preferred the slimmer models, they were more likely to approve of the products in the test adverts ­ upmarket salads and gourmet hamburgers.

"This study shows us why using thin models is a successful strategy used by advertising companies." Professor Martin said.

Steve Bloomfield, of the Eating Disorders Association, said the findings were not a surprise as women were conditioned to see thinner women as attractive. "Society generally lauds those aspects of life that lead to eating disorders. We admire the person who goes to the gym every night, or takes on a diet and sticks to it through thick and thin.

"People who call our helpline have poor self esteem and may have been teased about their shape. It is very easy for them to think that if they looked like the slim models in the advertisements that their troubles would go away."