Science puts a new view forward in the anti-brassiere argument.
Women have bound their breasts since antiquity, for modesty’s sake or to conform to an aesthetic ideal. Exposing the breast for human survival in breastfeeding is supposed to be kept politely minimal, even with the known multiple benefits of breastfeeding.
In the Western world, women avoid the free-swinging breast, a point of view encouraged by the multi-billion dollar brassiere industry. That began to change in the 1960s, when the Women’s Liberation movement proclaimed brassieres to be as oppressive as the corsets our grandmothers wore. Still, the majority of today’s women continue wearing the bra, conforming to societal norms and to fashion. Recent research conducted in France may influence women to change their minds again.
Professor Jean-Denis Rouillon, professor at the University of Franche-Comté in Besançon, recentlt concluded, after a 15-year study of 330 women, that supporting breasts in a bra helps not at all, neither “medically, physiologically nor anatomically.”
Rouillon argues that chest muscle and ligaments that support the breasts atrophy over time if the breasts’ natural motion is restrained by a bra. He claims that the women under study actually developed stronger supportive muscle while going bra-less. (Breast ligaments, which give the breast elasticity, do not regain tone as muscle does; like rubber bands, once they stretch out, they remain limp.) Rouillon proved his claim by the research participant’s nipples lifting 7mm towards the shoulder in one year. According to Rouillon, the women’s breasts became firmer and stretch marks faded.
Apart from wishing to improve the silhouette, women should be asking questions about bras versus female health. Some defenders of the no-bra cause claim that bras restrict the drainage of the axillary (armpit) lymph nodes. Lymph nodes help move bacteria, dead viruses and other blood toxins out of circulation. The implication is that these toxins simply stay in the armpit and breast area when a bra is worn, degrading health.
Others say that bras retain the heat naturally generated by the breast during movement, thereby increasing the chance of inflammation of the breast tissue and subsequently, cancer. With breast cancer rates rising almost visibly, it may be worth investigating that idea.
Although these issues are valid and deserve more research, there are no definite answers to anti-bra arguments based on health concerns. Respected institutions like the American Cancer Society invalidate the theory that bra-wearing increases chances of getting breast cancer. Proponents retort that as parallels between lung cancer and smoking were vigorously denied for decades by bodies with big financial interests in tobacco, so does the brassiere industry have interests in squashing that theory.
In the meantime, Rouillon is reluctant to advise all women to take their bras off. He said that the research participants didn’t represent the population at large – his study was conducted on women between the ages of 18-35. Further, he says that older women who have worn bras since early adolescence would gain nothing from removing their bras.
Presumably, Professor Rouillon means that if it’s too late to rebuild breast-supporting muscle, a woman might as well look good in her clothes and wear a bra.
More on breast health on Green Prophet:
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- Are Hormones In The Environment Making Women’s Breasts Larger?
- Natural Herbs For Breast Health And Enhancement
Image of woman removing bra via Shutterstock.