How researchers received funding for this study isn’t clear, but a team from London and Newcastle said the aim was to investigate whether known cross-cultural differences in body size preferences linked to stress were also mirrored in short-term stressful situations.

Eh? Researcher Martin Tovee from Newcastle University told the BBC: “If you look at environments where food is scarce, people’s preferences for body size in a potential partner are shifted. [The preference] appears to be much heavier compared to environments where there’s plenty of food and a much more relaxed atmosphere.”

Oh, OK then. So, in order to find out if this was true for people under short-term stress, a test group of males were placed in public speaking and interview scenarios, then had their ‘BMI preferences’ (ie the size of ladies they thought were hot) compared to a control group of non-stressed blokes.

The study discovered that the more stressed that men became, the larger the ladies they fancied.

The results appear to support other studies that have found perceptions of physical attractiveness alter depending on economic and physiological stresses that are linked to lifestyle.

Dr Tovee told the BBC that a shift in things that impact on environment – changes to media or lifestyle, for example – can change a culture’s ideas about ideal body size.

This was important, he said, as it seemed to disprove theories that our ‘BMI preferences’ are hard-wired.

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