The internet can be a confusing place. In the grand information age, where everyone can find a platform for their voice, misinformation is bound to spread. Every six months or so, we see the same article and study show up on our radar. You’ve probably seen it, too. Its headlines are variations of, “Women with bigger bums are smarter and healthier, Oxford University study says,” “Women with Big Butts Are Healthier & Smarter, Study Reveals,” and finally, “Does More Butt and Thigh Fat Make You Healthier?” So when I sat down this morning, I wanted to know the truth: Does science actually support this claim that’s been touted by lifestyle publications since the 2010 University of Oxford study was published.
The gist of the Oxford University review, which was done by researchers in 2007 and is best summarized in this ABC News article from January 2010, is that people who carry body fat in their thighs and hips specifically (not necessarily their bigger backsides) have extra protection against diabetes, heart disease, and other negative health conditions that stem from obesity.
It’s important to note here that the research was done via review, or a secondary source, and not a new study, which would have been the researchers themselves writing about the results. The 2010 review also covered previously-published research results from 2007 and 2008, and overlaid commentary to the findings.
What does the review actually claim?
Essentially, researchers found that the proportion of stomach fat to hip and thigh fat, or the waist-to-hip ratio, was an indicator of obesity-associated diseases and heart problems more so than BMI. These diseases ranged from chronic illnesses to cardiovascular disease. Specifically, the term “bigger butt” was never used in the review and instead implied through outside publications in their coverage. In the original research, scientists focused on higher levels body fat distribution.
Additionally, this waist-to-hip ratio concept was expanded to predict cognitive ability in mothers and offspring, but the data was sourced from a secondary source in the review. The review never stated that women with bigger butts are smarter, and instead used waist-to-hip ratio to determine that men were predisposed to choose mates with low waist-to-hip ratio.
The study’s conclusion, provided by Snopes, does not state or even hint that women with big butts were “healthier” or “smarter” than other women. These results, then, were blown out of proportion and completely misinterpreted for the sake of internet interest about three years later in 2013. The research only ever looked at the health correlation between waist-to-hip ratio, cognitive ability, and metabolic health.
The real truth is that women of any size are as smart and healthy as they choose to be, and you don’t need a review to confirm that. So while it’s wonderful to think that a little junk in the trunk might get you ahead in life, it all comes down to what you’re willing to do with what you’ve got.