Are Overweight People Really Big-Boned?

A euphemism has come true. According to a new study by forensic scientists, overweight people really are "big-boned."

The finding will help forensic investigators determine the weight of a long-deceased person a clue to his or her identity by analyzing the size of a skeleton's bones . The width of the femur, in particular, corresponds to body mass. "This research allows us to determine whether an individual was overweight based solely on the characteristics of a skeleton's femur, or thigh bone," said Ann Ross, an anthropologist at North Carolina State who co-led the research, in a press release.

Big bones aren't the reason people are overweight, though it's the other way around. The femurs of overweight people grow larger partly because they must bear more weight, the researchers hypothesize, and partly as a result of the way overweight people move and walk, which differs from others on account of their greater mass.

Discounting those minor details, the study, which was published in the March issue of the Journal of Forensic Sciences, will hopefully provide pudgy middle schoolers with a scientifically-backed reply to the taunts of bullies.

Originally published on Live Science.

Natalie Wolchover

Natalie Wolchover was a staff writer for Live Science from 2010 to 2012 and is currently a senior physics writer and editor for Quanta Magazine. She holds a bachelor's degree in physics from Tufts University and has studied physics at the University of California, Berkeley. Along with the staff of Quanta, Wolchover won the 2022 Pulitzer Prize for explanatory writing for her work on the building of the James Webb Space Telescope. Her work has also appeared in the The Best American Science and Nature Writing and The Best Writing on Mathematics, Nature, The New Yorker and Popular Science. She was the 2016 winner of the  Evert Clark/Seth Payne Award, an annual prize for young science journalists, as well as the winner of the 2017 Science Communication Award for the American Institute of Physics.