Evolution is Favoring Shorter, Heavier Women, Study Says
November 2, 2009 2:50 PM
Study predicts that in 400 years average woman will weigh nearly 1 kg more, be 2 cm (almost an inch) shorter
A strong body of evidence exists that humans are continually evolving a
in response to various environmental influences. Despite skepticism from some who blindly reject such studies for various dogmatic reasons, human evolution
does appear to be happening
. And researchers in the fields of genetics and evolutionary biology are revealing exciting insights into what man (and woman) may look like in the future.
from Yale University researchers offers some intriguing and unusual conclusions about where human evolution may be headed. A new study analyzing a population of 14,000 residents of the Massachusetts town of Framingham indicates that women are being naturally selected to be shorter and chubbier, have children younger, and have lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
The complex study came to these conclusions by looking at the medical records of 2,238 female participants, spread across two generations (starting in 1948) and looking at their medical history when they reached menopause. The study examined those that successfully reproduced and looked at what traits influenced their reproductive success. It also made adjustments for income, education and lifestyle choices such as smoking, before applying correlations to determine the direction of evolution. They also looked at secondary effects, i.e. whether low blood pressure led to younger sexual maturity, or whether the paths were independent.
Based on the results women in the third generation of the study, currently ongoing, are expected to begin their first period a month earlier, and enter menopause a full month later than their mothers and grandmothers, on average. Heaviness proved to be also be selected, as heavier women have more children, on average.
Professor Stephen Stearns, an evolutionary biologist at Yale University and coauthor of the study states, "The idea that natural selection has stopped operating in humans because we have gotten better at keeping people alive is just plain wrong. It's interesting that the underlying biological framework is still detectable beneath the culture."
The Yale experts predict that based on the current trends, in the year 2409AD, the average woman in Framingham will be 2 cm (almost 1 inch) shorter and 1 kg heavier (approximately 2.5 lb). Women in 2409 AD are predicted to have their period 5 months earlier and to go into menopause 10 months later -- almost a full year later.
Sean G. Byars, a post-doctoral researcher at Yale, was lead author of the paper, and researchers from University of Pennsylvania and the Boston University School of Medicine also contributed to it. The intriguing study was funded by Yale University and
in a prestigious journal -- the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences -- on October 19.
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