The results of a mammoth 15-year study led by professor Jean-Denis Rouillon, from the University of Besançon in eastern France, are finally in and it looks like conventional wisdom about bras and back pain has been way off the mark.
According to Rouillon, a sports science expert, the lesson to be learned from the preliminary results of his marathon experiment is that “bras are a false necessity”.
“Medically, physiologically, anatomically – breasts gain no benefit from being denied gravity. On the contrary, they get saggier with a bra,” Professor Rouillon told France Info radio on Wednesday.
Using a slide rule and caliper, Rouillon spent years carefully measuring changes in the orientation of breasts belonging to hundreds of women, at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire (University Hospital) in Besançon.
All the women involved in the study were aged between 18 and 35, although the professor was keen to stress that the group were not a representative of the global population of females.
After regularly measuring women who were not wearing bras the scientists concluded that "on average their nipples lifted on average seven millimetres in one year in relation to the shoulders."
Jean-Denis Rouillon (Photo courtesy of Osteopaths de France)
Capucine, a 28-year-old woman who participated in the professor's in-depth study, hasn’t worn a bra for two years, and swears by the results.
“There are multiple benefits: I breathe more easily, I carry myself better, and I have less back pain,” Capucine told France Info.
Despite the groundbreaking results of his study Rouillon advised certain women not to immediately throw away all their bras in the bin.
"It would be of no benefit to a 45-year-old mother to stop wearing a bra," he warned.
Speaking to The Local, Rouillon sought to emphasise the provisional nature of his data.
“These are preliminary results,” Dr. Rouillon said. “The small sample of 320 young women is not representative of the entire population – that would require something like 300,000 subjects.”
However, Dr. Rouillon did confirm that the initial data indicated that when young women stopped wearing a bra, there was no disimprovement in the orientation of their breasts, and in fact, there was widespread improvement.
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“Of course, this is not the only factor to consider when deciding whether or not wear a bra – for example, many women simply find them very comfortable, especially in winter,” Rouillon acknowledged.
Ultimately, however, he feels his work is not complete, since the findings are not definitive.
“We will simply have to recruit a larger sample of the female population, and conduct further research,” Rouillon added.