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Forensics: Overweight people really are big-boned

Date:
March 22, 2011
Source:
North Carolina State University
Summary:
One of the blind spots in forensic science, particularly in identifying unknown remains, is the inability of experts to determine how much an individual weighed based on his or her skeleton. New research moves us closer to solving this problem by giving forensic experts valuable insight into what the shape of the femur can tell us about the weight of an individual.
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Researchers found that the heavier an individual was, the wider the shaft of that person's femur.
Credit: Image courtesy of North Carolina State University

One of the blind spots in forensic science, particularly in identifying unknown remains, is the inability of experts to determine how much an individual weighed based on his or her skeleton. New research from North Carolina State University moves us closer to solving this problem by giving forensic experts valuable insight into what the shape of the femur can tell us about the weight of an individual.

"This research allows us to determine whether an individual was overweight based solely on the characteristics of a skeleton's femur, or thigh bone," says Dr. Ann Ross, an associate professor of anthropology at NC State and co-author of a paper describing the research. However, Ross notes, this research does not give us the ability to provide an individual's exact weight based on skeletal remains.

Researchers found that the heavier an individual was, the wider the shaft of that person's femur. The researchers hypothesize that the femur of an overweight person is more robust because it bears more weight, but also because overweight individuals move and walk differently to compensate for their greater mass.

The researchers evaluated the femur bones of 121 white men for the study. They used the bones of white men exclusively in order to eliminate any variation that could be attributed to race or gender.

NC State's Department of Sociology and Anthropology is part of the university's College of Humanities and Social Sciences.


Story Source:

The above post is reprinted from materials provided by North Carolina State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Gina M. Agostini, Ann H. Ross. The Effect of Weight on the Femur: A Cross-Sectional Analysis. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 2011; 56 (2): 339 DOI: 10.1111/j.1556-4029.2010.01648.x

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North Carolina State University. "Forensics: Overweight people really are big-boned." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 March 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110322105300.htm>.
North Carolina State University. (2011, March 22). Forensics: Overweight people really are big-boned. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 5, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110322105300.htm
North Carolina State University. "Forensics: Overweight people really are big-boned." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110322105300.htm (accessed August 5, 2015).

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