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November 02, 2005

Suckers For A Pretty Face - Updated

Why should men lose their heads for a pretty face? It’s all hormonal, baby. And the hormone in question is estrogen:

The female sex hormone oestrogen was thought to be the mediator of beauty, which advertises health and fecundity. Now researchers at the University of St Andrews have shown for the first time that women with higher levels of oestrogen do indeed have more attractive faces. …

[During Puberty,] [t]he female sex hormone oestrogen prevents the growth of facial bone, reduces the size of the nose and chin, and leads to large eyes, increased thickness of lips and fat deposition in the cheek area, along with hips and buttocks, features that announce that a woman is fertile. …

Ms Law Smith said: "Women are effectively advertising their general fertility with their faces. Our findings could explain why men universally seem to prefer feminine women's faces. In evolutionary terms, it makes sense for men to favour feminine fertile women, those that did would have had more babies."

The hormone/fertility link recalls my favorite evolutionary “So, *that’s* the reason” article from last year: The Economist’s report on why men prefer larger breasts.


Behind their wall but reproduced here.

Dr. Jasienska measured the vital statistics of 119 women aged between 24 and 37. She also took saliva samples from them over a whole menstrual cycle.

She then divided her sample into four categories - a combination of narrow or broad waist-to-hip ratio with small or large breast-size - and looked for statistically significant differences between them in the levels of progesterone and 17-b-estrodiol, two hormones whose concentrations are known to be related to a woman's fertility. …

In the case of progesterone, both groups of narrow-wasted women had high hormone levels.

In that of 17-b-estrodiol, those with narrow waists and large breasts had elevated levels - and that level was particularly high at the time of ovulation.

Indeed, it was so high that Dr. Jasienska estimates such women are three times as likely as the others to become pregnant on any given occasion. In evolutionary terms that makes them very desirable mates indeed.

So, to review, the estrogen gets you the pretty, feminine facial features (also the nice hips and azz), progesterone and 17-b-estradiol gets you the big boobies relative to waist size. And both of them, it appears, equal more babies. And that is why man likes what he likes.

Now you know.

(And here, while we’re talkin mammal attraction: The ultrasonic mating songs of the lonely male mouse. Pitch shifted audio here. Via Slashdot)

Update: A picture is worth...

Facial composites of the 10 women in the study with the highest estrogen levels (left) and 10 lowest (right):

biology_of_beauty_hi_and_lo_oestrogen_small.jpg

Similarly attractive, men?

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posted by Dr. Reo Symes at 12:21 AM

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