The more television people watch the thinner a female body they prefer, according to a new study.

Claiming to have proved a direct link between television and female body ideals, researchers said they were able to isolate the effects of media exposure from other cultural and ecological factors.

Assessing groups of people from rural Nicaragua, they grouped them into having different levels of access to Western media. This included people from an urban area, a village with television access, and a village with little television access.

The research, published in the British Journal of Psychology, found that the highest body mass index (BMI) preferences were found in the village with the least media access, while those living in urban areas preferred thinner female bodies.

The co-leader on the research, Dr Martin Tovee, a reader in visual cognition at Newcastle University's Institute of Neuroscience, said:

Our study shows that television is having a significant impact on what people think is the ideal woman's body.

The differences in television access allowed us to explore how media exposure affects the size and shape women aspire to be.

Findings revealed that the more television exposure people receive, the thinner a female body women and men prefer - the amount of media access directly predicts body ideals.

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