New study for young women

30 May 2014

Dietetic researchers at the University of Newcastle have begun recruiting women aged 18 to 44 to examine the body shape and composition changes that have arisen over the past 15 years.

The team led by chief investigator Amanda Patterson will be measuring waist, hip and bust circumferences, along with height and weight, on up to 300 study participants to compare with similar data collected in 1999. Dr Patterson also has historical statistics attained by the underwear industry in the 1920s.

"This is a repeat of my initial study in 1999 which found that women were heavier, taller and bigger in every dimension than those of 1926," Dr Patterson said. "I'm anticipating a further increase in dimensions as this demographic appears to be gaining weight faster than any other population group."

From 1926 to 1999, mean height increased by 3cm, weight by 4.5kg, waist and hip measures by 3.5cm, while over-bust measurements increased by almost 6cm. In 1999, 36 per cent of women wore a bra that was too large while 19 per cent had one that was undersized.

Recent Australian Longitudinal Study of Women's Health figures suggest that young women currently gain weight 30 percent faster than at any other adult life stage, averaging 6.3kg from their 20s to 30s.   

"We will also be measuring body fat and muscle composition, along with resting metabolic rates, to examine how these relate to each other and to the body shape measures," Dr Patterson added. "We expect that a significant number of women within the healthy weight range for Body Mass Index (BMI) will have high body fat percentages – similarly, women who rate as overweight on BMI might well have body fat percentages within acceptable limits."

Researchers will be collecting clothing data as part of the latest study to assist with sizing conformity.

The original project measured 150 women from Newcastle, Melbourne and Sydney respectively – this time, researchers are aiming to recruit 150 each from the Newcastle and Tamworth regions, allowing an examination of differences in rural and metropolitan settings.

Participants will receive the interpreted results of their measurements, including BMI, correct bra size, body fat and muscle composition and resting metabolic rate. To be eligible, they must not have fallen pregnant or given birth in the past 12 months, nor had cosmetic surgery (breast augmentation, breast reduction, liposuction, or tummy tuck) that would alter their body shape.

To register for the study contact Kim Mathews on Kimberly.Mathews@uon.edu.au.

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