US eggheads in spurious va-voom/intelligence linkage

Backhaul-v-middleware 'Allsopp ratio' is key stat

American evolutionary-psych researchers have produced eye catching research suggesting that women whose hips are significantly bigger than their waists are more intelligent, and tend to produce more intelligent babies. They believe that this might explain why men tend to be attracted to women with this type of physique, apparently theorising that what men really really want is women (and children) likely to be cleverer than themselves.

The eggheads, based at the Universities of Pittsburgh and California (Santa Barbara), surveyed 16,000 women. Each subject had her vital statistics measured, and carried out "cognitive" tests, said to be a valid method of measuring intelligence.

According to the research, due to be published in Evolution and Human Behaviour, there was a strong correlation between high intelligence and low waist-to-hips ratio, between 0.6 and 0.7, equating to a waistline of 24 to 28 inches for a woman with 40-inch hips - this last measurement being the current UK average.

The US academics theorised that Omega 3 fats stored in more prominent buttock regions might affect brain development, but had no idea really. They then made the even more sweeping evolutionary-psych-style wild-arse guess that men were programmed to lust after hourglass-shaped women (or pear-shaped ones at a pinch), as this would tend to mean cleverer mates and cleverer offspring.

Even once you accept that having a clever missus and clever nippers is going to mean more of the little fellows living to breed under stone-age conditions, the whole theory seemed to be built on wobbly foundations. As it were.*

For instance, consider these recent stats (pdf) from the UK gov and rag trade. The average woman today has 40.5 inch hips; but, more interestingly, the average woman of 1951 had only slightly less, erm, backhaul (39 inches) but much less middleware, so to speak (27.5 inch waist). Thus, in 1951, the average UK woman had a waist-to-hips ratio of almost exactly 0.7, which indicates that nearly 50 per cent of Blighty's ladies were in the brain-boosting curviness zone.

So if the American academics'** theories are correct, the women of the 1950s should have been hugely cleverer than those of today. And their children - the over-50s - ought to be noticeably smarter than we morlocks of the following generations, produced by increasingly slab-sided modern women.

The BBC's science guys said:

The findings appear to be borne out in the educational attainments of at least one of the UK's most famous curvaceous women, Nigella Lawson, who graduated from Oxford.

Which many would say is a self-contradictory statement. Anyway, what about Marilyn Monroe? Waist-to-hips ratio of 0.62, according to the Guardian, and not even a measly Oxford degree to bless herself with. What about Kirstie Allsopp, the thinking man's TV-property crumpet***? She told the Telegraph "I've got a big arse, small waist, big boobs" - suggesting an excellent brain-boosting figure, but in fact her educational record wasn't stellar. ("Allsopp went to nine different schools before finally settling in at Bedales...")

Etc, etc. Nice idea, eggheads - excellent way to kick off a conversation in the pub, good to see the whole skinny-waif thing getting another trashing (Kate Moss: one C at GCSE, relatively rubbish-for-a-celeb waist-hip ratio of 0.68) - but in the end a load of old cobblers. ®

*Stop bothering me, cloakroom attendant.

**We choose on this occasion not to cheapen the honourable sobriquet of "boffin".

***The woman Beeny is simply nowhere by comparison, we say.

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