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A new study found that men who are stressed are more attracted to heavier women.

Researchers at the University of Westminster in London recruited approximately 80 men to participate in the study; half of the men were subjected to stress-inducing tasks. After the group completed the tasks, the men were asked to rate the level of attractiveness of females with body types ranging from extremely thin to obese.

In comparison to the group of men who did not complete the stress-related tasks, the stressed men rated females with heavier physiques higher in attractiveness than those who were thin.

"Our body size preferences are flexible and can be changed by environment and circumstance," explained Martin Tovee, one of the study's authors.  "We need to understand the factors shaping body preferences."

The study’s findings question the stereotype that men are ideally attracted to females that have a thin, supermodel-like build.

Study authors believe that the results are consistent with past research that shows how stress can be a significant influence on attractiveness.

"Stress, both acute and chronic, has profound effect on how we process new information both cognitively and emotionally," explained Dr. Igor Galynker, associate chairman of the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Beth Israel Medical Center.

Previous studies have also found that men prefer heavier women when they are in a situation where resources are low or inaccessible. Researchers suggested that this may be due to the belief that skinnier women are more susceptible to illness, irregular periods, or that they may not be able to have a healthy pregnancy.

"If you live in an environment where food is scarce, being heavier means that you have fat stored up as a buffer and that you must be higher social status to afford the food in the first place," Tovee explained.  "Both of these are attractive qualities in a partner in those circumstances."

The study, published in the journal PLoS One, also found that the stressed men were more open to a wider range of female body types in comparison to the control group. Researchers believe these findings expose ways people choose partners to date and marry.

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