Idealised body shape 'danger to human race'

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The Independent Online
IF WOMEN achieved the impossible ideal of bodies as thin as those of modern display mannequins, the days of the human race might be severely limited, writes Celia Hall.

Women and girls that thin would not start menstruating and would be infertile, according to Finnish researchers who measured six dress-shop dummies from the 1920s to the present day and a group of average-weight students.

Women should have at least 17 per cent of their weight as fat to reach the onset of menstruation and 22 per cent as fat to have regular cycles. But they found that while the 'fat' on mannequins before the 1950s was mostly in the normal range, it has since been considerably less.

Some of the average weight students - who had between 23 per cent and 32.2 per cent of their body weight as fat - were on the borderline of healthy height-for-weight ratios.

Dr Pertti Mustajoki of the University Central Hospital, Helsinki, says women get accustomed to the whims of fashion from childhood. 'Many of the phenomena of fashion are harmless, but the trend of extreme thinness is not without its dangers. A woman with the shape of a modern mannequin would probably not menstruate,' she says in the British Medical Journal.

Arm, hip and thigh circumferences of the post-1950 mannequins were 2cm (0.8in) to 3cms (1.18in), 8cms (3.1in) and 4cm (1.6in) to 5cms (2in) less than the pre-1950 mannequins, closer to measurements of the students.