People In Most Countries Have Gotten Taller Over Last Century

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Prof. Majid Ezzati, PhD Faculty of Medicine, School of Public Health Chair in Global Environmental Health Imperial College, London Adjunct Professor of Global Health and Department of Global Health and Population Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Prof. Majid Ezzati

Prof. Majid Ezzati, PhD
Faculty of Medicine, School of Public Health
Chair in Global Environmental Health
Imperial College, London
Adjunct Professor of Global Health and
Department of Global Health and Population
Harvard T.H. Chan
School of Public Health

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Human height is strongly influenced by the environment that we grow up in, from pregnancy through to late adolescence. If we have good nutrition, few illnesses and good healthcare, we are more likely to grow taller. In turn, height has a strong effect on our health in adulthood. Taller people on average live longer, have lower risk of heart disease (although they do have slightly elevated risks of some cancers).

We have collated the largest-ever database of height. We analysed 1472 studies with measured height on 18.6 million individuals. We made estimates of height for 18-year-old men and women from 1914 and 2014. Height has increased in every country in the world, but this has been very uneven. The tallest men in the world are now the Dutch, and the tallest women are the Latvians. The countries that have seen the most growth are South Korea for women and Iran for men. We have seen large increases in height in East Asia, and stagnation in much of the West over the last few decades. In parts of Africa height has actually decreased by 5-10 cm over this period.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: It is not clear why there are such large differences in height between countries, and in the way height has changed. We think that our research should be the jumping-off point for other researchers to investigate this fully. These changes cannot solely be explained by genetics, and the environment in which children grow up in is vitally important. Organisations like the WHO and national governments must work together to improve the start in life that children get.

MedicalResearch.com: Thank you for your contribution to the MedicalResearch.com community.

Citation:

A century of trends in adult human height
NCD Risk Factor Collaboration (NCD-RisC)
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.13410
Published July 26, 2016
eLife 2016;5:e13410

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.

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