Waist-to-hip ratio, body-mass index, age and number of children in seven traditional societies
It has been suggested that the preference for low WHRs evolved because low WHR provided a cue to
female reproductive status and health, and therefore to her reproductive value. The present study
aimed to test whether WHR might indeed be a reliable cue to female reproductive history (with lower
WHRs indicating lower number of children). Previous studies showed such a relationship for modern
and industrialized populations, but it has not been investigated in natural fertility, indigenous, more
energy constrained populations facing greater trade-offs in energy allocation than do modern societies.
Our sample comprised 925 women aged 13 to 95 years from seven non-industrial societies including
tribes from Sub-Saharan Africa (Hadza, Datoga, and Isanzu), Western Siberia (Ob Ugric people: Khanty
and Mansi), South America (Tsimane) and South Asia (Minahasans and Sangirese). We demonstrated
a culturally stable, significant relationship between number of children and WHR among women,
controlling for BMI and age. Based on these data, we suggest that WHR is a reliable cue to female
reproductive history, and we discuss our results in the context of previous studies indicating usefulness
of WHR as an indicator of health and fertility.