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'But at the same time we lead physically inactive lives.Our energy needs have fallen but we refuse to eat less.' The proportions of the modern female body are helped by the fact that there has also been an increase in height and feet size.In the last 50 years the average woman has grown by an inch, to 5ft 4in, and over 80 years her feet have increased from a four to a six.
Scientists behind the project, based at University College London, have selected a cross-section of the public, taking into account age, ethnic origin, socio-economic groups and geographical location.
That means that while many aspire to the waif-like look of Kate Moss, the fuller figures of model Sophie Dahl or television presenter Liza Tarbuck are the reality.
As a result of its findings, M&S has redrawn the body maps used by its designers.
Yet an increase in belly fat does more than make it hard to zip up your jeans. Also, your muscle mass might diminish slightly with age, while fat increases.
Research shows that belly fat also carries serious health risks. Loss of muscle mass also decreases the rate at which your body uses calories, which can make it more challenging to maintain a healthy weight.