The Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw®
Life Extension NewsTM
Volume 18 No. 1 • April 2015

Weight and the Perception of Sexual Attractiveness

People are rightfully concerned about their weight and body composition, especially lean vs. fat tissue weight, as it relates to health. But we wonder how many women would be even more interested in how men perceived their sexual attractiveness from the point of view of their body shape and weight. (Men might be interested in how women — or other men — perceived their sexual attractiveness based on similar considerations, but we have data just on the perception of attractiveness of women by men.)

The data come from an interesting little study published in the Aug. 15, 1998 The Lancet.1

The first consideration is that, from the point of view of reproductive potential, we would expect that the more fertile a woman’s build appears to be, the more likely she is to appear sexually attractive to a man. Therefore, the researchers began with an impression that the waist/hip ratio would be of particular importance for sexual attractiveness, with a ratio of 0.7 (curvaceous) being the most attractive waist/hip ratio for a woman.

The researchers, therefore, gave 40 male undergraduates color frontal views of 50 women to rate for sexual attractiveness. They then drew ten women from each of the body-mass index categories: emaciated (<15 kg/m2), underweight (15 – 19 kg/m2, normal (20 – 24 kg/m2, overweight (25 – 30 kg/m2) and obese (>30 kg/m2). Within each of the body mass index categories the women had different waist/hip ratios, typically ranging from 0.68 to 0.90. The sexual attractiveness ratings were significantly explained by body-mass index and waist/hip ratio, but the magnitude of the effect differed strikingly and perhaps surprisingly. Body-mass index accounted for 73.5% of variance, whereas waist/hip ratio accounted for only 1.8%. In this particular study, body-mass index came out by far as the most important factor in determining sexual attractiveness, with the authors rating it as a good predictor of health and reproductive potential.

The curve for attractiveness rating vs. body-mass index showed a peak at about 21 kg/m2.

Even the “bust/hip” ratio (hourglass figure) did not contribute significantly to attractiveness ratings more than body-mass index and waist/hip ratio alone.


  1. Tovee, Reinhardt, et al. Optimum body-mass index and maximum sexual attractiveness. The Lancet. 352:548 (1998).

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