Tuesday, March 22, 2011

"I am not fat, I am big boned"

According to a recent article in PHYSORG.COM forensic anthropologists from North Carolina State University are able to determine for the first time if someone was overweight based on the dimensions of the femur bone. Bigger bones are correlated with heavier individuals because they must adjust how they carry their weight, which requires the femur to make changes such as a wider shaft.

“This research allows us to determine whether an individual was overweight based solely on the characteristics of a skeleton’s femur, or thigh bone,” says Dr. Ann Ross, an associate professor of anthropology at NC State and co-author of a paper describing the research. However, Ross notes, this research does not give us the ability to provide an individual’s exact weight based on skeletal remains.

Researchers found that the heavier an individual was, the wider the shaft of that person’s femur. The researchers hypothesize that the femur of an overweight person is more robust because it bears more weight, but also because overweight individuals move and walk differently to compensate for their greater mass.

The researchers evaluated the femur bones of 121 white men for the study. They used the bones of white men exclusively in order to eliminate any variation that could be attributed to race or gender.

Researchers compared femur bones of 121 white males to determine the variation of the femurs within a particular racial or ethnic group. By focusing on only one group, the results would exclude any variation that could be attributed from race or gender. This research is another interesting example of how social science and anthropology contribute to understanding humans.

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