Media images are not as influential as expected
San Francisco, CA -- (SBWIRE) -- 10/08/2012 -- A woman’s drive to lose weight might come more from her genes than from images of slim Hollywood models, a Michigan study suggests.
Researchers at Michigan State University looking at women’s tendency of “thin idealization” asked more than 300 female twins about their body images. They found that as much as 43% of the tendency to idealize thinness was inherited. They also found that experiences such as exercise were more important than media influences such as pictures of slim Hollywood models.
“We’re all bombarded daily with messages extolling the virtues of being thin,” Jessica Suisman, the study’s leader, told The Telegraph. “Yet intriguingly only some women develop what we term thin ideal internalization.”
In the study, twins were asked about their perception of their body and how important it is to look like women on TV and in movies. The twins’ ages ranged from 12 to 22. The researchers determined each woman’s “thin idealization” and then compared sets of identical twins with sets of fraternal twins. Identical twins share all of their genes, but fraternal twins share only half. Researchers found that the identical twins were more similar in their tendency to idealize thinness.
Environmental factors played a role, but cultural influences were not as important as the researchers thought, according to the study, which was reported in the International Journal of Eating Disorders.
“We were surprised to find that shared environmental factors, such as exposure to the same media, did not have as big an impact as expected,” Suisman said. “Instead, non-shared factors that make co-twins different from each other had the greatest impact.”
A co-author of the study, professor Kelly Clump, said it is important to include genetic and environmental factors when studying “thin-ideal internalization.”
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