We’ve all had down days. Bad hair days. Fat days. Days when we feel like we don’t look good and we don’t want to be seen in public. I’m happy with my body most of the time but, from time to time, i find myself standing in the mirror while getting ready and thinking ‘my hair looks so flat and lifeless’, ‘I hate my crooked teeth’ or ‘where did that extra bump on my waist come from?’. I am my harshest critic – something I think is true for most of us.
But issues of self confidence aside, the way you look physically could actually hold clues to some specific health issues you could be at risk of. Many studies have shown that your physique or physical constitution is interlinked with health and disease.
The shape of your body may predict some health risks. One example of this is something most of us are familiar with – your waistline measurement. It is well documented that the size of your waistline is directly connected to your risk of having cardiovascular health issues. This is due to a myriad of issues that occur in the body when it is carrying excess weight. This is one example that is easy for most of us to recognise. There are others, however, that are a little more subtle.
Though the subject is quite complex, one simple way of looking at the body’s shape in relation to disease is to look at the somatotype (endomorphy, mesomorphy and ectomorphy). This approach of looking at the human physique is informed by embryonic development – how we grow in the womb. Endomorphy is typical of soft rounded features of the body that had a predominance of energy put into the inner organs and digestive viscera during embryonic development. Mesomorphy is a term used to describe the bodies who had more energy placed on the mesoderm during embryonic development, meaning mostly muscles and connective tissues. And ectomorphy reflects the outer layer of the ectoderm that forms the skin, nails and sensory organs.
This is a very oversimplified explanation of the science of somatotypes and how to identify one’s constitution, but the matter to consider is the scientific evidence that shows a link between physical traits and health conditions. Cluster analyses of arterial hypertension and liver disease, for instance, tend to be higher in people with endomorphic and mesomorphic traits. Young ectomorphs rarely have high blood pressure, but this can change significantly as they get older and throughout their life they have a higher risk of injury to the bones. These specific health risks have been scientifically linked to certain body types. So what you see in the mirror – your body’s shape and composition – could indicate that you are at higher risk for certain health issues than other people may be.
Though there may not ever be a clear-cut relationship between your somatotype and risks of disease, there is a strong enough scientific link that it’s worth taking it into consideration as a component of a broader complex matrix of health predictors in more holistic models. So while there is no need to freak out about what your broad shoulders, short legs, or shapely waist could mean for your health, it is good to keep in mind when considering your health overall.
What the somatotype approach highlights is that, right from the womb, we are all created differently. We are all unique and will have individual health needs. One way to know what’s best for you (and not anyone else) as an individual is to check out technology like ph360 and ShaeTM, which take somatotypes into account when calculating your recommendations. And the next time you find yourself standing in the mirror, less than impressed with what you see, just remind yourself that you are unique – just like everyone else.
Williams, Simon RP, et al. “Somatotype and angiographically determined atherosclerotic coronary artery disease in men.” American Journal of Human Biology 12.1 (2000): 128-138.
Koleva, M., A. Nacheva, and M. Boev. “Somatotype and disease prevalence in adults.” Reviews on environmental health 17.1 (2002): 65-84.
Katzmarzyk, P. T., and R. M. Malina. “Familial resemblance for physique: heritabilities for somatotype components.” Annals of human biology 27.5 (2000): 467-477.
Peeters, M. W., et al. “Heritability of somatotype components: a multivariate analysis.” International journal of obesity 31.8 (2007): 1295-1301.
Singh, S. P. “Somatotype and disease-A review.” The Anthropologist: International Journal of Contemporary and Applied Studies of Man 3.Special Issue (2007): 251-261.