Women evolving to be shorter and heavier, says research

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As medicine has allowed people who would previously have died young to live to childbearing age and beyond, many have assumed that natural selection no longer works on our species.

But Prof Stephen Stearns, the evolutionary biologist at Yale University behind the study, says: "That's just plain false."

While survival to reproductive age is no longer such a hurdle for humans, other evolutionary pressures – including sexual selection and reproductive fitness – are still working away in full force.

If the trends the research detected are representative and continue for another 10 generations, Prof Stearns says that the average woman in 2409AD will be 2cm (0.8in) shorter and 1kg (2lb 3oz) heavier, will bear her first child five months earlier, and enter the menopause 10 months later.

Prof Stearns and his team studied the medical histories of 14,000 residents of the Massachusetts town of Framingham, using medical data from a study going back to 1948 and spanning three generations.

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