Wanting to Be Thin May Have More to Do With Genetics Than Media Images


According to some new research that makes excellent scientific use of the well-documented psychic superpowers demonstrated by identical and, to a lesser, Jean Grey-to-Phoenix extent, fraternal twins, the urge to lose weight in young women might have a lot more to do with genetics and individual experiences than previously thought. Scientists from Michigan State University surveyed more than 300 pairs of female twins about their body image and found, reports the Telegraph, that up to 43 percent of a woman’s risk of “thin idealization” might be inherited.

Jessica Suisman, the study ringleader, explained that the findings, while by no means definitive, suggest that the media may play a surprisingly less prominent role in pressuring girls to idealize thinness:

We’re all bombarded daily with messages extolling the virtues of being thin, yet intriguingly only some women develop what we term thin ideal internalisation. This suggests that genetic factors may make some women more susceptible to this pressure than others.

Researchers asked twins from 12- to 22-years-old questions about their body image, including how much they wanted to look like women on film, in magazines, or on TV. After individually assessing each participant’s level of “thin idealization,” researchers compared identical twins (who share 100 percent of their genes) with fraternal twins (who share only 50 percent of their genes). Identical twins showed much more similar levels of thin idealization than fraternal twins, suggesting to researchers that there’s a strong genetic component in the urge to idealize the photoshopped images of the entertainment world.

Paralleling some earlier twin research into whether or not being an animal lover has a strong genetic component, the study also found that shared environmental factors such as the exposure to the same media, played less of a role in levels of thin idealization than personal experiences that only one twin had, such as attitudes that friends had about what constituted being overweight, or participation in weight-oriented activities like dance.

The study obviously doesn’t exonerate media for the unrelenting way it pressures just about every human to look like a living, breathing, freakishly proportioned and striated comic book superhero, but it does force scientists to consider a whole range of genetic factors that may help intensify an individual’s propensity towards thin idealization.

Urge to lose weight could be genetic [Telegraph]

Image via negative/Shutterstock.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Share Tweet Submit Pin