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Attractiveness: A sign of Good Health?



It has long been postulated that attractiveness is a sign of health and immunocompetence. Yet, research testing this hypothesis has relied on a small number of indirect proxies of immune function; results have been mixed.


Attractiveness: A sign of Good Health?

In view of that, Mengelkoch et al., decided to examine the link between target attractiveness and the following measurements:

  • self-reported health
  • in vivo measures of inflammation and white blood cell count/composition
  • in vitro tests of targets' immune function including: leucocyte proliferation, phagocytosis of Escherichia coli bioparticles, cell-mediated lysis of target tumor cells, and Staphylococcus aureus growth in isolated plasma.

Their results revealed that attractive targets had higher rates of phagocytosis, greater NK cell cytotoxicity, and slower rates of S. aureus growth in plasma. On another note, women perceived male targets with high-functioning NK cells and males with low levels of plasma TNF-α to be more attractive.

Conversely, female targets with low levels of NK cell cytotoxicity were perceived as more attractive by men.

In conclusion, there exists complex, often sex-differentiated relationships between immune function, health, and attractiveness

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