Wearing a bra does more harm than good – it does nothing to reduce back pain and weakens the muscles that hold up the breasts, resulting in greater breast sagging, Jean-Denis Rouillon, a sports science expert from the University of Besançon, France, reported after a 15-year study.

Rouillon says that the main conclusion from the preliminary results of his “marathon experiment” is that the bra is a false necessity.

In an interview with France Info (radio), Professor Rouillon said:

“Medically, physiologically, anatomically – breasts gain no benefit from being denied gravity. On the contrary, they get saggier with a bra.”

Prof. Rouillon used a slide rule and a caliper (a device used to measure the distance between two opposite sides of an object) to carefully measure changes in breast features of hundreds of women over a 15-year period at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire, Besançon.

All his volunteers were between 18 and 35 years old. Rouillon emphasized that although his study spanned many years and included hundreds of women, he in no way claims his sample population is representative of the global population of women.

Rouillon found that women who never wore bras had nipples on average seven millimeters higher in relation to their shoulders each year than regular bra users.

In an interview with France Info, a 28-year old female called Capucine says she swears by Rouillon’s findings.

Capucine, who was one of the volunteers in Rouillon’s study, said:

“There are multiple benefits (to being without a bra): I breathe more easily, I carry myself better, and I have less back pain.”

Rouillon warns that some women should not throw their bras away immediately. For example, older women (45 years or more) would derive no benefit from throwing away their bra. In an interview with Reuters, he said “But a middle-aged woman, overweight, with 2.4 children? I’m not at all sure she’d benefit from abandoning bras.”

In an interview with The Local, an English-written newspaper in France, Rouillon stressed “These are preliminary results. The small sample of 320 young women is not representative of the entire population – that would require something like 300,000 subjects.”

The study did confirm that, according to preliminary data, when young women stop wearing a bra:

  • There is no deterioration in the orientation of their breasts
  • There is widespread improvement in the orientation of their breasts

A previous study by the University of Portsmouth, England, revealed that some women are damaging their breasts because they are wearing the wrong bra size.

Rouillon acknowledged that women wear a bra for a number of reasons, apart from hoping to conserve the shape of their breasts and to prevent sagging. Some find them more comfortable, especially those who live far from the equator during wintertime.

In order for these “preliminary results” to become “definitive”, Rouillon says he needs to recruit a much larger sample of women, and to conduct further research on the subject.

John Dixey, former CEO of bra-maker Playtex, explained in a Channel 4 (British TV channel) interview “We have no evidence that wearing a bra could prevent sagging, because the breast itself is not muscle, so keeping it toned up is an impossibility…. There’s no permanent effect on the breast from wearing a particular bra. The bra will give you the shape the bra’s been designed to give while you’re wearing it.”

Written by Sarah Glynn