The Connection Between Height and Health

Height has historically been regarded as a marker of health and robustness. We seem to implicitly accept that bigger is indeed better, even if we don’t want to admit it. On average, tall people attain more professional success and make more money, the taller presidential candidate almost always wins, and women are more attracted to tall men. On a very visceral level, the taller person is more physically imposing. After all, who would you rather fight – the dude with a long reach raining punches from up high or the shorter guy with stubby arms who has to work his way inside your guard (although Mike Tyson did pretty well for himself with such “limitations”)? And on that note, who would you prefer as a mate – the physically imposing specimen or the shorter, presumably weaker male?

We in the Primal health community are quick to point out that agriculture reduced physical stature. Generally speaking, bone records indicate that Paleolithic (and, to a lesser extent, Mesolithic) humans were taller than humans living immediately after the advent of agriculture. Multiple sources exist, so let’s take a look at a couple of them before moving on:

According to one study on remains of early Europeans, prior to 16,000 BC, European males stood 179 cm tall, or 5’10.5″, and females stood 158 cm, or 5’2″. Between 8,000 to 6,600 BC, average heights had dropped to 166 cm for males. Heights fell even further in Neolithic populations, dropping down to 164 cm for males and 150 cm for females, only reaching and surpassing 170 cm at the end of the 19th century.

Another source found that Paleolithic humans living between 30,000 and 9,000 BC ran almost 5’10”, which is close to the average modern American male’s height. After agriculture was fully adopted, male height dropped to 161 cm, or 5’5.4″. Females went from 166.5 cm to 154.3 cm under the same parameters.

We know these changes to height also reflected worsened health, because with shortness came dental pathologies like caries, plaque, and decay, signs of arrested growth indicating instances of severe malnutrition, and skull abnormalities that stem from iron deficiency. People got shorter, sicker, and less healthy. Height wasn’t a cause of poor health, of course, but it was an indicator.

And that’s where the statistic of height shines – as an indicator. On a large scale, height increases indicate improved nutritional or socioeconomic status, while decreases indicate poor nutrition, famine, war, or economic hardship. Thus, as a population increases in height, it’s safe to assume that its people are either eating better, making more money, or both. If a population shows decreasing height (or stagnation, which the US is showing), we surmise that something is amiss. There exists no better modern day example of height following health than with North and South Korea. Several studies show that South Koreans are taller than their counterparts to the north. Since the two populations are so closely related, genetic differences can’t explain the discrepancy; it’s got to be environment, especially childhood nutrition. North Koreans are famously malnourished, and the height discrepancy between North and South – about three or four inches on average – is similar to the height discrepancy observed between Paleolithic and Neolithic populations.

There are numerous other examples. Up until the late 1800s, Northern Plains Indian tribes were the tallest people in the world, standing over 172 cm (or about 5’8″) and subsisting on a nourishing diet of wild game, fish, berries, and native plants. That height advantage disappeared with reservation life, of course. Fry bread, vegetable oil, sugar, and white flour mixed with extreme stress and economic hardship are poor substitutes for fresh buffalo and open plains. What about Americans, the ones who supplanted the Plains tribes? For most of the past two hundred years, Americans have been the tallest people in the world, until about fifty years ago when height began to stagnate. Today, American males stand around 5’10.5″, but we haven’t grown in decades and other countries have long since passed us. Meanwhile, European and Asian countries have steadily gained on us. The Dutch, whose men stand over 6′ and whose women stand over 5’7″, are now the tallest in the world. American males are ninth tallest and American females are fifteenth, and any regular reader of mine knows that the nutritional situation in America needs a lot of work. It’s no surprise that we’re stagnating while other countries with better nutrition are growing.

And yet for all the concrete links between a population’s height, health, and nutrition (especially childhood nutrition), some researchers have linked “excessive” height to poor health and longevity. Barring the obvious examples of short-lived people with gigantism and other endocrine disorders, there is some evidence that the shorter among us live the longest. Thomas Samaras, a height/health researcher, has authored several papers arguing that bigger is not necessarily better. In one, he reviews human and animal evidence and seems to present a strong argument, but others have argued that Samaras overlooks evidence to the contrary. While Samaras chooses to focus on increased mortality from non smoking-related cancers in the tall, he ignores the bevy of evidence showing that in industrialized nations, taller people enjoy more protection from all-cause mortality, including heart disease, stroke, and respiratory disease.

But what about those centenarians? As Samaras notes, they, along with nonagenarians (between 90 and 99 years old), are on average shorter than the rest of the population. The long-lived Okinawans are famously dimunitive, and it seems like every other Mediterranean centenarian in the news is a spry old lady.

I like one possible explanation for centenarians being shorter and slighter while enjoying better health and longevity: insulin-like growth factor, or IGF-1, a protein produced in the liver and stimulated by growth hormone that induces systemic growth in almost every cell of the body, including muscle, bone, various organs, cartilage, skin, nerves, and lungs. It even affects DNA synthesis and individual cell growth. IGF-1 is perhaps the biggest determinant of height in humans: in infants, IGF-1 correlates strongly with growth, IGF-1 is highest during growth spurts in pre-teens and teens, and higher levels of IGF-1 usually correlate with adult height. Clearly, enough IGF-1 is required for proper musculoskeletal development, but what about too much? Can you have too much IGF-1?

Staffan Lindeberg thinks that excessive serum levels of IGF-1 from diet-induced hyperinsulinemia are causing unhealthy amounts of growth, which manifest as higher rates of cancer and, yes, height, in Western populations. Simply put, Lindeberg agrees that a population’s height is an indicator of health, but only to a point, after which it indicates excessive and potentially problematic levels of IGF-1. There’s probably something to this; female centenarians are more likely to have an IGF-1 receptor mutation that results in elevated serum levels of IGF-1 while reducing IGF-1 receptor activity. In other words, the body was producing more IGF-1 to make up for the lack of receptor activity. This same receptor mutation has been linked to longevity in multiple animal models resulting in higher serum IGF-1 and lower IGF-1 receptor activity – just like in the human centenarians. In male and female offspring of the centenarians, however, only females showed elevated serum levels. Male offspring had similar IGF-1 levels to control males (those with no familial history of longevity). Female offspring were also 2.5 cm shorter than control females; male offspring were of similar height to control males. Perhaps short stature is more beneficial to women?

Maybe so. Gavrilova looked at draft cards filled out by 30 year-old Americans who would eventually grow up to become centenarians and analyzed the differences between the physical stats of those who would eventually grow up to become centenarians and those who didn’t. While obesity (or “stoutness,” as it was called back then) had strong negative links to longevity, height did not. The group of future centenarians was mostly people of medium height. Being soldiers, however, these were exclusively males. According to the IGF-1 receptor mutation study, only in females is the mutation linked to lower heights and greater longevity.

Overall, though? Height is linked to a population’s health and good childhood nutrition. In certain individuals, given certain genetic differences, short stature may indicate the potential for greater longevity, but not on a population-wide scale. Besides – barring pharmaceutical (or cybernetic) interventions, there’s not a whole lot we full-grown adults can do to alter our heights.

Thanks for reading, everyone. Share your thoughts in the comment board.

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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202 thoughts on “The Connection Between Height and Health”

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  1. You present some intriguing research, Mark. As with most scientific research, however, the results are inconclusive.

    And as you point out at the end, their is nothing we can do to change our heights, so the research is kind of pointless from a practical standpoint.

    1. Well pointless for us, however should we have children down the road, this information is quite practical.

      1. It’s still very interesting… even for those of us NOT planning to have children. Especially if we happen to be freakishly tall females.


    2. It’s true that we can’t change our heights as adults. However, proper nutrition can reduce growth rates and final body height and weight. The famous anthropologist, Ashley Montagu, said that we take a false pride in the growth of our children but this is an incorrect position. William Galton and Richard Gubner also reported that favoring increased growth is a false value because bigger bodies are tied to poorer health and reduced longevity.

      For more information:

      Tom Samaras

      Our growth today is due to excess nutrition not better nutrition. The emphasis on animal protein and processed foods promote growth but this food system is considered a devastating by the global obesity expert, Barry Popkin.

    3. look it is NOT inconclusive ,SHORTER PEOPLE LIVE LONGER and that is the fact ,find any other reputable RECENT article that says otherwise and send it to me, YES LIFE IS MORE WONDERFULL IF YOU ARE A TALL MEN , but god doesn’t giveth without taking away 🙂

    4. As of 2018, much more evidence has been published showing shorter, smaller people live longer. For example, Lemez et al. found shorter basketball players lived longer. A Polish study based on 800,000 deceased men and women found the shorter ones lived longer. A study by Sohn found shorter people had a lower mortality. Mueller found that shorter retired West Point graduates lived longer. Poulain reported that Sardinans live longer than the rest of Europe and are shorter than other Europeans. Salaris studied an inland village in Sardinia and found the shorter men lived longer. In addition, He et al. found that shorter men lived longer. There are over 40 other examples like this.

  2. Hmmm interesting. However, I personally feel that a junk food diet = taller.

    1. I would totally disagree. Most junk food is high-carb, low protein and makes people unhealthy. The introduction of junk food as a staple in the modern American diet could well be the reason for height stagnation. Western Europeans tend to eat healthier and as such are healthier and long-lived than Americans.

      1. Growth in height and weight are related to birth weight which in turn is related to the mother’s weight. In addition, the total amount of protein, the per cent of calories from protein and total energy intake are primary drivers of human height and body size.

        Of course, pregnancy problems, low birth weight, congenital defects, childhood infections, and early malnutrition can result in shorter adult height even if a high protein diet is eaten later on in childhood and adolescence. See website for research papers on this subject:

        Tom Samaras

    2. I feel there might be some correlation too. Maybe it’s the hormones in milk? I know a few really tall young men with terrible diets. On the other end of the spectrum, I know someone whose father is very tall and he ended up about 5’8” and wonders why. He also ate a poor diet as a kid, so it just might have affected him differently. As with everything, some are more prone to be affected than others (like cancer, weight gain, etc.)

  3. Thanks for this very interesting post about the IGF-1 paradox.

    Maybe for adults there is not a whole lot we can do to alter our heights, but how can we naturally influence the height of our children?

  4. So do you think kids that are raised to eat in your fashion are going to blow through their genetic heights and be taller? Disregarding their geneology? Just curious.

    1. Your genes don’t dictate an exact height. They determine the range of possible heights you can achieve, and how tall you’ll be GIVEN a certain set of environmental factors. Mark’s saying that living Primally may help you reach your height potential.

      1. There is another factor to height that I have personally experienced. At age 17 I joined the Army. At the time I joined I was 6’4″. Within 18 months I was 6’2.5″ and by the end of 2 years I stabilized at 6’2″. The cause of my height reduction was based on 2 factors, diet and extreme weight being carried. Average of 80 extras pounds in a pack for several hours at a time. I left the army in 1995 and in those last 15 years I have shrunk .5″.

  5. The average American male is 5’10.5″? I thought it was slightly shorter. I happen to be exactly that height, and like to describe myself as “tall-ish.” 🙂

      1. 5′ 10″ is not short at all. Just look around and make some observations. I’m going to have to do some research, but I too believe the average height of the American male to be less that 5′ 10″. Just by observation, I have always seen far more men shorter than me than taller than me, this includes all of my friends, and I am 5′ 10″.

        I know this post came late so I will likely get no response and no one will likely read this post, ha ha.

      2. how can this guy be called short when he just finished saying he was exactly equal to the statistical average?

  6. As a short 5’6″ male, I sometimes wonder if my nutrition had been from the farmer’s market instead of the cereal isle growing up how tall I might be today? Doesn’t bother me because it’s out of my control now but it’s interesting to think about.

    Another well written article, thanks!

    1. same here. 5’6″. not lots of meat. stopped growing by 7th grade… though i was tall-ish for a 7th grader.

    2. To bad you dont live in Ireland. The average Irishman is 5’7, and the women shorter. When my little sister who is 5′ tall came to visit, we had to go pick up my kiddos from school. After waiting outside the classrooms with the other parents we collected them and headed back home. She said “well, I always wondered what it would be like to be in a room where I’m as tall as everyone else. Now I know.” I wonder why the Irish are so short. I know malnutrition has played a part, but I think they have always been short and I’d love to know why. Now having said that, I have to say that my Irish husband is 6’1 😀 but his dad and uncles are all 5’7, and his brother just 5’9 I think. So many questions!!!!!

      1. Haha I can thank the Irish part of my heritage in part for my height and I’d love to visit Ireland! I was taller than all my friends in middle school, then they had growth spurts and I didn’t. Youtube Short People by Randy Newman, my roommates played me that song daily in college, great guys haha.

        1. My grandparents came from Ireland, and I’m 5’8″. I grew up with a lot of kids of Irish descent and most were taller than average. That said, there is a great variance in height among my family members. I have a brother who is 6’3″ and another who is 5’7″. I also have a sister who is 5′.

      2. I believe most Irish people are of Celtic and/or Scandinavian ancestry. There were some earlier peoples but I’m unsure what their stature was. Celts were usually shorter, Vikings rather tall. That may explain the height differences you’re seeing.

      3. Having been born in Northern Ireland, but mostly raised in Australia, I’ve always pondered whether where I grew up affected my height. Also, I think there may be a height difference between people in the North of Ireland and people in the Republic – just based on observation… My mother’s family (who are Irish/Catholic) are all on the shorter side of average – so my mother was under strict orders as a young woman to break this tradition and “marry a tall man.” Enter my father (an Ulster Scot/Protestant) who is 6’3. While it’s been great that my 3 brothers all ended up being 6’4, as a girl I used to hate being considered tall (I’m 5’11).

        I only mention my parents’ backgrounds because I think traditionally Irish people may well be shorter, but I’ve noticed that people with an Ulster Scots background (and/or possibly some sort of Viking ancestry?) seem taller. It’s odd how much the height can vary in the North… Anyway, maybe growing up in the Aussie sunshine influenced my growth. I used to hate my height (and I know I’m not the only tall girl to feel that way), but I’ve actually learned to like it. For better or worse, people do tend to link your height with your identity, so you have to make the most of whatever height you are.

        1. I was surprised at how short the Irish were, compared to my American Irish family.
          All the men in my family are well over 6 feet tall (I have 27 first cousins).

      4. Wow, even with all those grass fed cows? It kind of makes me wonder…

        1. Primal/paleo enthusiasts paint a picture of Grok, who enjoyed robust health and a long life, assuming he wasn’t killed by a beast or by falling off a cliff, but there are modern day hunter-gatherers who live a very short life and are also very small in stature. The pymgy tribes of Africa and the Sentinelese of North Sentinel Island in the Indian Ocean, for example, are very short. The Sentinelese stop growing at about 12 years of age and usually die before age 30. What are some examples of long-lived present-day hunter-gatherer societies?

      5. I know this is an old post, but the average Irishman is wayyyyy taller than 5’7”. Statistical data shows that 5’11” is average for young males. 6’0” was about 70th percentile in my secondary school, with over 30 out of 110 guys being that or taller. Average height is even taller in the universities. Out of my class of 25 guys, there is one 6’8”, three 6’5”, one 6’4”, two 6’3”, and a bunch of 6’2” guys.

      6. Interesting! I have Irish in me and I would like to think it’s from some Viking heritage. Hehe!

  7. I’d prefer it if we separated the people in Atlantic Canada from the rest for the height comparison. From what I’ve seen whenever I go to america, you guys are so much shorter than us.
    It’s the wimps in the center of Canada who bring us down (height-wise). Did you know they cancel school for light snowfall? Pathetic!

    1. Not in quebec, no matter how much of a snow storm the school never closed. I’m talking about Philemon wright lol.

      1. Not even slightly true. The truth though is that when it snows in a warmer climate the roads end up covered in deep slush and people from colder snowier climates quickly learn what Vancouver drivers know intimately: driving in slush is 1000 times slipperier than driving on nice cold compacted snow.

  8. This is fascinating. I come from a tall family, my husband from a short one. We are both the same height – 5’7″. One twin son who tends to favor me, is tall. The other twin, is short. I am fascinated to see how tall they will grow relative to each other and us, their parents. And I’m hoping they will be taller because of the success advantages it gives them.

  9. Love your articles, Mark, but I thought your citation of North Korea/South Korea height differences was largely irrelevant to your first point about the potential impact of neolithic foods on shorter stature. For a country whose people have been reduced to scraping the bark off trees to ward off hunger, even the worst neolithic foods imaginable would have contributed to a drastic average height increase, and if you cited it to prove that nutrition (as in bare minimum of food needed to survive) has an impact on height, eh, glaringly obvious? Maybe evidence about changes in avg height of South Koreans, since their diet has become much more meat-centered (an example where caloric intake would not be a glaring variable), would have been more apt?
    Regardless, thank you for the work you put out. I’m a huge fan.

    1. The South Koreans have grown taller and the incidence of chronic diseases has increased. While they have one of lowest rates of coronary heart disease in the world, it has increased over the last 50 years by a factor of 2.5. During the Korean war, autopsies of S. Korean soldiers revealed they had perfectly clear arteries while US soldiers had varying degrees of atherosclerosis.

      A similar experience has occurred in India. Researcher Bavdekar reported that in recent years, young and middle aged men and women have experienced an epidemic of heart disease and diabetes. This is no doubt due to their increased height and weight due to changes in their dietary practices.

  10. I am watching this experiment right now. My daughter just turned 4 and is head and shoulders taller then her peers. Her diet is far different from those kids around her and I wonder if her height is the result.

  11. I’m from New Zealand, but mostly Dutch heritage. I stand at 5’11 and i’m a female, i’m about the top-range for my family. *most* of the adult males are taller than me. 😀
    But it depended on if they grew up where we did – I spent my first 12 years in rural New Zealand farm country.
    We grew up eating a lot of grass fed lamb/mutton and occasionally beef. Not a lot of sugar or bread, as we were not the richest! Lots of plant matter too, as we’re also part Maori and the area was tribal too.
    In any case, me and my brothers turned out taller than the rest of the family.
    No small wonder why eh?

  12. I was always a short kid all the way through high school!

    Today, I stand at 5’9″ and 146 lbs and LOVE my size. I don’t wish to be shorter or taller.

    BUT, I may gain a touch of height after going through Esthers “8 Steps to a Pain Free Back” book!

  13. Well I had a great childhood nutrition-wise and I’m 5’0″. (And female, so I guess that’s beneficial, lifespan-wise?) I seem to have gotten a large swack of my genes from my paternal grandmother though and she was only 4’10” (raised in the early 1900s on a farm in Nova Scotia, whereas I was raised in the 1970s on wild game & homegrown veg in the Yukon).

    I think one thing that Mark missed saying is that “good nutrition”, especially as it relates to height, is first about adequate calories, and that’s where the North Koreans are missing out. I think it could also be argued that part of why North America’s height stats have stagnated is because immigration makes up a substantial part of population increase and most immigrants are adults, many raised in suboptimal nutritional milieus OR from populations with genetically smaller statures. Denmark, not so much – it’s pretty ethnically homogenous and one things the Vikings historically did well was tall – now that the country is prosperous and well-fed, they’re doing it again. (I’m thinking the mid-1900s, what with the wars and food rationing and whatnot, put a dent in most of Europe’s tall.)

  14. I stand 5’6″ tall (or short…). I was always one of the shortest kids in school and still feel like a midget back home (Germany). Several years ago I moved to Vancouver. Now I feel like a giant! I’m seriously taller than many people around me. What a difference! So, does that make me tall or short? 😉

    1. That makes you lucky because when you go out and buy pants they all fit or you get extra length =P

      My dang legs are so long I gotta push the pants down under my belly button to get the length on the bottom…lol

      1. Hahah, I wish! I have a big butt and a small waist. All the pance here in Vancouver are for tiny stick figures. I can’t buy anything without getting it altered. I always have to buy something too big & then have the waist taken in. That’s the only way my curvy form will actually fit. I suppose that makes me lucky come bikini season.

        1. I know what you mean! Why do they make all women’s clothes for stick figures? Women are supposed to have curves but my butt is 3 sizes bigger than my waist! Drives me nuts!

        2. It’s not just in Vancouver where all the pants are for stick figures. It’s not just pants, either–skirts and dresses are made for stick figures too.

  15. Sally Fallon of the WAPF wrote (though i don’t know what her source of information is), “Children brought up on high-protein, low-fat diets often experience rapid growth. The results—tall, myopic, lanky individuals with crowded teeth and poor bone structure, a kind of Ichabod Crane syndrome—are a fixture in America.”

    1. I think Sally’s onto something, and it probably has to do with IGF-1. I remember several of these Ichabod Cranes in my high school – freakishly tall and thin, and often myopic and with terrible cystic acne. You have to wonder what their moms fed them.

    2. I am one of those tall, lanky, myopic people with crowded teeth and poor bone structure. Always was so as a kid, needed all kinds of bone supports: teeth braces, mouth palate expanders, orthodics for flat feet, and worst of all, back brace and spinal fusion for a spine that grew so quickly it curved into scoliosis.

      Today I am 5’10” and still very thin. I can attest that when I was growing up my father has always been one of those “health-conscious” individuals who eats low-fat everything and high carbs, so I was raised on lots of lean meat, lots of reduced fat dairy, and cereals. Suffered terribly most of my life from all kinds of illness, allergies, and aches until I discovered Sally Fallon in my 20’s and went on a primal type of diet low in carbs and high in animal fats. I am healthier today than I’ve ever been, yet far from ideal…

      1. I don’t know if you will get this, but it really sounds like you have Marfan syndrome. You should do some research and see your physician.

    1. My husbands step-Dad is 6’7″ at age 74 and walks without being hunched over.
      He is the only 1 I’ve seen though, very exceptional.

    2. My grandfather was 6’4″ until his death in his 80’s, and he got around pretty well actually. I’m trying to think of his diet, he spent pretty much his whole life in tidewater Virginia so ate lots of oysters and blue crab. He liked liver and brains and eggs too lol. He was pretty much a carnivore that ate full fat everything.

      As for physical activity, he worked in the shipyard and his job was very physical. He was also a competative golfer and did that A LOT. He was tall and slim to the end.

  16. So what do the Ducth eat that is different from other Western Countries? Or perhaps it should be what don’t they eat?

    1. I think it’s more what they don’t eat, and they tend to walk/ride everywhere still.

  17. When I grew up in Europe I was of ‘normal’ height…female 5’10” at age 20. Most of the people I came in contact with were MY height, even women in their 50’s.

    I came to America (KY) and all of a sudden everyone was slightly shorter than me.
    We moved to Seattle and even more people were short. Then we moved to Idaho and found THE shortest women I’ve ever seen here. Most women here are robust (hefty and broad in bone structure) and have extremely short legs compared to upper body length…it looks ridiculous.
    I see a few women that are extremely tall, too…but nothing inbetween, in the ‘normal’ range.

    But, I’ve noticed most american women having a broad face with nice wide cheekbones (even if the dental arch is messed up), why is that?

    America grew up on ranching…lots of healthy meat and vegetables grown on very fertile dirt…I see where the big, hefty bones and wide faces developed (Weston A Price) but why such extremely short legs?

    Could 1-2 generations of malnutrition have such a great impact on peoples appearance?

    1. Interesting observation about the women in Idaho! I suspect that you’re seeing some kind of genetic grouping though, rather than anything nutrition related.

    2. I’m American (from VA), and my family’s been here since the 1600’s. I’m 5’7″ female, high cheekbones, not sure if my face would be considered wide or not. But I think I have very long legs. I’m naturally pretty tall and slim. But my hands and feet are really small (7.5 narrow shoe size), it seems to be genetic, but could nutrition have anything to do with that?

  18. I find this article fascinating. I am 5’10” and had fairly good nutrition as a child. I think what is going to be most interesting is the current generation and height statistics for our kids today. Food has changed SO much even in the last 30 years and it’s just in a crisis state now. I am so grateful for all I’ve learned and the changes I’ve made. I feel like my kids eat better than the majority of their peers and however tall they end up, I know they are getting some great nutrition and learning a healthy lifestyle.

  19. I remember reading an article of Loren Cordain’s years ago, maybe it was in one of his newsletters. Anyway, he said that spikes in insulin cause an increase in growth in kids so, if you’re doing the paleo diet but you want your kids to boast the height of their peers, then you should feed them some high GI foods. He said he fed his kids white potatoes to compensate. I’ve wondered in recent years how that turned out for them.

  20. I would never marry a guy that was shorter than me, I’m 177 cm, female and 50% Fin. The other 50% is Austrian.
    I’ve always been attracted to tall agile guys with muscle definition, a little bit of padding and a strong jaw…all the rest look underdeveloped and make a lousy hunter and fighter for my children to be =P.

    The extreme skinny ones that look like they swallowed the zombie virus would just die on me while we’re looking for prey.
    With a shorter guy next to me I’d always feel like I’m the protector. How do I stand up as a female to the enemy without the help of a modern weapon, like a gun?
    Those are just the first impressions, unless proven wrong somehow. In the Grok world the short, skinny guy would never have a chance.
    No shorties for me…I like to be safe.

    Ironically, I had to marry an american to get what I wanted because it was hard to find a tall, muscular guy in europe that wasn’t also an asshole.

    1. If you want a guy who’s a “good protector” the most likely candidate is someone who’s fit, strong, and shorter than average. Shorter guys get challenged/picked on the most as young men. Consequently, they’re often the best at real-life fighting and situational awareness.

      The tall guys don’t get picked on very much because they look imposing. Consequently they don’t have much real fighting experience.

      But I understand your wanting a guy who’s a good defender. I have to admit, I’m not attracted to men I could easily break in half. I’m not talking about build or height, I’m talking about toughness.

      My BF is 2 inches shorter than I, but he could take me in a fight any day (which is saying something).

      1. My husband would disagree with your “short guys get picked on most” theory, Janina. He’s 6’7 and was always much taller than his peers. According to him, it’s the tall guys who are most often the targets of bullies, and the bullies are mainly short guys who want to prove their manliness by taking down a bigger guy. He’s a peaceful person, but he did his share of short-guy swat-downs back in the day…:-)

    2. Get & learn to use a weapon or learn martial arts, or get a husband who does. That would have a way bigger influence on ability to protect than height or gender. What do you seek protection from, anyway?

      Nothing wrong with being attracted to tall guys, but don’t do faulty rationalizations.

      1. Hi Sofie,

        yeah I did learn to fire a gun (husband taught me), and while I still lived in Germany I took Kung Fu.
        Back in Germany I had guys follow me home from places. I’ve had men wait in their cars at my house at night once they knew where I lived.
        I had to sneak back into the house like a ninja to avoid being seen by the stalkers.

        Going out I’ve always dressed way down, with ripped jeans and combat boots and even that didn’t help much. My Dad taught me where to hit them to stun them for a few seconds so I can run away. Calling the police didn’t help, unless they’ve broken into the house and I’m in real physical danger they never even come and check on you.

        So when I was looking for a man to marry…I made sure it was someone that looked like he can rip whoever a new one.
        With my 6’4″ tall american (ex-military) husband I feel safe 🙂

  21. This is really fascinating to me. My children are fairly small relative to the other kids in their classes: my 9YO is the 2nd-shortest in her class (and is about the 40th %ile for height and 50th or so for weight according to pediatrician) while the 6YO is downright tiny, second-smallest only to the twin sisters in her class; 6YO is about the 30-35th %ile for height/weight. Paleo is a relatively new thing for us, but we’ve always gone easy on starchy foods, especially since we found many behavioral benefits of doing so when now-9YO was diagnosed with some special needs.

    Husband and I are both about what I’d consider more or less average: I’m 5’4+” and he’s about 5’11”. The girls have inherited his build, which is short legs relative to torso length, while I have a shorter torso and longer legs.

    But when I volunteer at my kids’ school and see kids in 3rd grade on up who are taller than me and in many cases weigh more than me (still working on a few more pounds, but at 142lb I’m not obese), it’s WEIRD. When I started teaching 20 years ago, third-graders were smaller than I was, and most 5th-graders were as well, but now even 4th-graders (in our system those kids are 9-11YO, depending on whether they redshirted kindergarten) are in many many cases taller than me and often heavier. 🙁

    I don’t see a lot of robust good health, though: I see pudgy kids, I see kids with acne (in elementary school), I see kids who waddle, and I see so very many behavioral problems. I see girls with breasts already in 3rd and 4th grade (and menstruating 4th and 5th-grade girls), and boys with changing voices in 4th as well. I’ve already had it out with our school system’s and our state’s school meals programs, told them what I thought of serving kids artificially-colored and flavored strawberry milk with HFCS. I really feel for these kids. I feel especially bad for the ones with behavioral issues, since mine used to be one (mostly sensory overload in our case, but definitely helped with a good diet!), and I feel for the parents who think that just because they put “a yogurt” (pink and blue :X) in their kids’ lunch, or that the school serves milk, their kids are getting a healthy meal. I feel most sorry for the kids for whom lunch consists of Lunchables and a can of Coke. 🙁 It will be interesting to see where this batch of kids ends up on a number of social, growth, behavior, and health scales as they work their way thru middle and high school.

    The kids are getting bigger, but their health isn’t getting better if what I see is any indication. 🙁

    1. I’m with you on this – it seems very strange how big kids are getting. My nephew was 5’10” and 200 lbs at 14YO and is still growing. My 11YO niece is already developing breasts. They have a terrible diet but they seem to think that their size indicates good nutrition. It reminds me of petroleum fertilizer making plants grow bigger and faster, but they aren’t very nutritious. Sacrificing quality for quantity? It’s like their bodies can’t support all the growth in a healthy way because they don’t have much muscle mass or coordination, and they have very bad teeth. It really worries me.

      1. I agree, that maybe the chemicals in foods trigger rapid big growth.
        And it is very obvious, those children usually have a huge head, big plump weak skin, legs that aren’t straight due to weak joints. Those kids are HUGE and always overweight. I’ve seen quite a few in our little town here. Most of them have obese parents that look sick.

        There are other children that are taller than average, but look ‘normal’. Skinny and normal bone formation and are usually very athletic. Most of them have tall, slender parents that look healthy.

    2. That’s why I read this article with such interest. My daughter sounds like your daughter (somewhat short, average weight). I’m really worried about her growing to a good height, esp. since it seems she’s destined to start puberty (and stop growing) soon — and too early. I often scour the web at night looking for possible ways to stave off puberty as long as possible so she’ll have a chance to gain some height. I guess now I won’t worry as much, but I would still like to keep puberty at bay for a little longer.

      And, though it’s been said ad infinitum, I have to second what you said about school lunches. The worst part is that I send the kids to school with lunches, but they often “forget” them when the cafeteria serves something they’re interested in. Nothing makes me madder than a call saying my kids owe money on their lunch cards — I don’t want them eating that garbage, and I surely don’t want to pay for the privilege!

    3. Deb, just wondering- Is this rural, urban, middle class, economically challenged, etc? Fascinating. My girl in in 3rd grade and a handful of kids are 5 feet but that is the max, and only about 10% are overweight. Upper middle class suburb.

  22. Hmmm. This article seemed to wander around without a more specific focus. I’m left wondering several things:

    *Average height, while an indicator of general population health, is influenced by diet, but it is also influenced by genetics, which went largely unmentioned (possibly because it is a very complex inheritance, not a simple Bb). You also left out the influence of drugs on height—lots of steroids (such as those used to control severe asthma) shorten the adult height attained. I would think there are others.

    *In biology, one cannot endlessly enlarge an organism. A single celled organism cannot be bred up to the size of a human, there are problems with the physics involved. Similarly, there probably is a ceiling to human height. Maybe we could evolve to have some giraffe or whale adaptations to being tall/large, we could break through that ceiling, but we wouldn’t be H. sapiens anymore either. Therefore height stagnation in the US might be due to poor diet, but as presented in this article, that’s some weak proof.

    *It was my understanding that size:longevity was very true in dogs. The smaller the dog, the longer the life expectancy. An Irish Wolfhound lives on average 6 years. The average life expectancy of a Pomeranian is 12 to 16 years. I don’t know if there is any good research on why this is true for dogs.

    *And finally, I dislike the implied “short is unhealthy.” One is born with certain genes. We know that starting from conception epigenetics and environment (which includes diet) influence those genes’ expression. I like to think of it as you’re given a box of legos (genes), but each person puts them together differently. If you maximize your legos and you lucked out and got all great pieces for it, you can build a tall tower, but you’re not going to exceed the number of legos in your box. We aren’t to the level of genetic manipulation that someone is going to hand you a second box of legos to add to your tower.

    And for the record, I’m 170 cm (5’7″) and female, which puts me on the tall side of average for the US. I wasn’t fed great growing up, I wasn’t fed lousy. I have no idea if this was my maximum height possible or not.

    Having kids of my own, I worry about the junk that I see other kids eating, but I really, really, really worry about the lack of sleep and exercise I see my kids’ classmates getting.

    1. When comparing dogs you need to compare within the breed. The largest, heaviest born in the litter is the most robust with best nutrition. The runt is always the one that is sick and lives the short life.
      That is, if they all live on the same shitty diet…and you watch who dies first.

      I know so because I have English Mastiffs.
      I now have a female (she was the runt nobody wanted) that I fed Colostrum + raw goat milk + raw diet + mineral supplement that is the tallest Mastiff I’ve ever seen and has a lean body, weight 205 lbs. No hip or other joint problems, no heart problems and she loves to distance jump.

      Can’t compare a short Asian to a tall European and think the asian lives longer cause he’s shorter.
      I think diet has more to do with everything than one thinks.
      I believe the taller and more robust someones genetic makeup is, the more nutrition is needed to feed that body.

      Elephants live to about 60 years…some lived to be 80. According to this law of size flies should live 200 years and elephants 1 day.

      1. I have always understood it to be that larger species live longer on average, but individual animals of the species who are smaller than average live longer than the larger ones. This makes sense to me because any animal’s body is evolved to last a certain length of time, and to wear out after a certain amount of use. The smaller individuals are putting less stress on their frames and metabolism than their species is adapted for, while the larger individuals are subject to more, so the larger ones burn out faster.

      2. “Elephants live to about 60 years…some lived to be 80. According to this law of size flies should live 200 years and elephants 1 day.”

        Um, no, not my point, as elephants and flies while both members of the same Kingdom, aren’t even in the same Phylum, let alone genus and species. With dogs, all breeds are Canis lupus. Your Mastiffs and someone else’s Chihuahuas are members of the SAME species. And that was where my question came in, does anyone know of any decent research about why there is a tendency in dogs for the smaller breeds to live longer?

        You do bring up a valid point that within an individual litter, larger size is an indicator of more robust health. So it is a complex situation, within a given litter, larger size is better. But within the species as a whole, smaller breeds are longer lived. So at some point bigger is not more robust, or . . ? Do smaller Irish Wolfhounds live longer than the biggest? (would need to take into account relative litter size as well, maybe select only individuals who were largest in their litters, but select such that there is a smaller and a larger cohort) What about with the tiny, yip-yip dogs, does the size within a breed (big chihuahua vs. tiny chihuahua) make a difference on lifespan?

        And if this could be figured out, what would it mean to humans?

      3. There are scientific studies that show smaller breeds
        live longer but I am not aware of formal studies that show smaller dogs don’t live as long within the same breed. However, the smallest poodles live longer than the biggest according to scientific research.

        Asian elephants live longer than than larger African elephants.

        In terms of humans, many studies have found that smaller people live longer and of course, smaller women live longer than men. While scientists have attributed this longer life to hormones, this has never been proven although it may be a factor.

        Tom Samaras (ed) Human Body Size and the Laws of Scaling, Nova Biomedical Sciences, NY, 2007

    2. Don’t forget many dogs are routinely de-sexed, and surely the lack of sex hormones would have some bearing on health, and longevity. How long do human eunuchs live?

      1. It’s my understanding that fixed animals actually live longer, presumably because they spend resources on tissue repair that would otherwise go into reproduction.

      2. One study in Norway involved 350,000 dogs and did not indicate that de-sexing was the cause of the smaller dog longevity. Besides, the de-sexing would probably apply to all breeds. In addition, longevity studies on mice and rats did not involve de-sexing and the smaller animals lived longer.

  23. I hate being short… I’m 5’3″ and I’ve also always been overweight. Not obese, just chunky. I changed that once.. then gained it back (thank you, bread and grains), but I’m changing again primally. I wish I had eaten better as a kid… 🙁

  24. If only I had started Primal sooner, then all of those college coaches who said that I was too short to play offensive lineman [at 6’1″] would have given me those scholarships 🙂

    Love the work Mark! Keep it up!

  25. Interesting. What about breastfeeding during childhood? Is it a factor in height?

    The Egyptian diet has always been very high in grains, legumes and sugar. Animals raised for meat are all stuffed with grains for fattening purposes especially since we’re in almost a complete dessert now after turning the green areas around the Nile into concrete. Yet, Egyptians are very tall. Men and women. I’m 158 cm and I feel like a midget around here. The interesting thing is the majority of Egyptian women breastfeed their children for at least a year. I personally don’t know any Egyptians who weren’t breastfed or Egyptian women who don’t breastfeed.

    1. I was just wondering the same thing. Breast-feeding has such long-reaching ramifications that I think it can partly counteract worse eating later on… I was breast-fed until I was about 2 and half (shock horror!), and my Mum often says that was the only thing that stood by me when I went through 5 years of pretty severe Anorexia. I ended up being 5’11, despite deliberately starving as a teenager. I shudder to think of how I used to eat less than 2g of fat a day in those years.

    2. Breastfeeding sets kids up with great immune systems, the corect calorie, fat,types of milk proteins, nutrients,superior developmental potentials of any infant feeding regime as well as the benefits of the neuronal development and brain networking from the close nurturing practices of breastfeeding. It also has benefits to the mother with protective factors against some women’s cancers, osteoporosis (due to making the body more efficient at extracting calcium from diet) and return of the body to healthier state post baby than that of those who choose to artificially feed. My children were fed until 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 (which is, by the way, completely normal, abnormality is weaning a baby sooner) and had only been to a doctor for non medical reasons. They rarely get sick and when they do, recover quickly with no ear infections, tonsillitis or conditions which are considered part of growing up. They also don’t have dental malocclusion from dummies (pacifiers) and teats on bottles. Our kids also slept with us with safety precautions in mind (no drugs, alcohol, obesity or doonas) or in the same room in crib next to our bed. I think that’s how we are intended to nurture our young. By the way, we are not even alternative lifestylers, just a farmer (grazier – grows meat) and a health professional.

  26. Jack Lalanne was not very tall and he made it to 94? George Burns was pretty short (I think) and he passed the 100 year goalpost. Considerable difference in their diets and workout routines 😉

    1. Yes, many people who live a long time are short. In fact, most centenarians are short and lean. However, this does not mean tall people can’t live to 100. The Okinawans have the highest percentage of centenarians in the world, and males average 4’10. Of course, some shrinkage occurred during their lives so that they were probably 5′ or so when they were young. A review of longevity data is shown in website:
      This website lists many research papers on this subject.

      Tom Samaras

  27. I’ve always noticed the families of dairy farmers tend to be tall and lean. Besides being very hard workers, their diets tend to be very dairy-heavy and in most cases raw. I’ve always presumed the height came from the milk.

    I don’t know how this plays into longevity, but if it makes them more money, who cares? 😉

    1. I went to Army basic at 17. I couldn’t stomach the water at Ft. Dix so I drank milk for liquid intake. During basic and other training, 24 weeks, I had a growth spurt. Gained 2 inches and 30 pounds. I was a skinny brat before. Taller then most of the other kids, at 6′. I’ve always credited the height gain to the milk and the weight gain to all the exercise.

  28. This would be very interesting long term study to do and maybe then have more conclusive evidence. Height has a HUGE genetic factor, so nutrition and modern medicine does affect the outcome a bit, but genetics takes the stage.

  29. Just met up with a distant relative who grew up very differently from me, in lifestyle and nutrition. We are exactly the same height and build…(short), incidentally, the same shape as my grandmother.

    My kids eat such healthy food, healthier than I did as a child. And yet they look just like old photos of my brothers and I at the same age!!

    They’re on the short side. Lots of longevity in my family along with the short, curvy build, so no complaining here!!

  30. If nothing else, the comments to the article prove that there are still a lot of bigotry and biases related to height. I feel for the short guys out there that feel like they have to work far harder to prove their worth, just because of their height. Regardless of diet, there is a genetic component that a person has no control over. Not that it couldn’t happen, but I don’t think you’re likely to see many very tall children of very short parents….even with a superb diet. And frankly, do we really all want to be the same?

  31. What did the central european Grok do that the asian grok didn’t do, to grow long bones?
    And why does the african Grok have THE longest bones.
    Some documentary I’ve watched stated that africans jump in place from the day they can stand. They chant and bounce in place sometimes for hours.
    If done for thousands of years, generation after generation, would that start to affect bone growth and height?

    Sure seems like it, I think. So what did Grok in europe do that grok in asia didn’t?

  32. 6′ 4″ and good with it.

    I’m tall, which does ultimately add a lot of stress to my body that a shorter person would not have to deal with. Hitting my head on things, lifting heavy things, pull ups (the exercise, not the diapers), cutting things on a kitchen counter (don’t even get me started with the extra short installations in restrooms) – all the bane of the tall person’s existence.

    I watch my son grow (he’s only 18 months now) and am concerned that he will be even taller than I am. I worry because we very much live in a world that expects people to be within a certain range, and I am at the upper edge (or already over that range). I would hate to see him having to deal with the consequences of being ‘too tall’.

    That said, I wouldn’t change my height – consequences be damned – for the world.

    1. My husband and I are 6’4″ (him) and 5’10.5″ (me) and everything is too short. They build everything for midgets it seems…even the clothes and shoes.

      We gave the toilet extra height (build a box under the toilet and raise it up above the box with piping)
      Move the bathroom mirror up…get rid of the door frame (above), build your own door (easy) that goes all the way to the ceiling like in old castles. Tables sit on blocks we bought at the store for $9.
      We demolished the kitchen and now have shelves (with no doors) along all the kitched walls, with plates, pots and pans and glasses being placed in hands reach. Even my computer desk is 6 inches taller than a reg. table and the monitor sits on an additional box.
      The house was remodeled to fit us giants. 🙂 I love it.

      Woodshop is an awesome hobby…lol.

  33. I am 6’3″ 215lbs. Growing up my parents (and therefore I) were practically carnivores. We rarely ate out, my mom graciously cooked dinner every night. Now nutritionally dinner wasn’t all that great, meat often cam breaded and fried and the one side was either potatoes, or some other high carb “vegetable.” My parents still consider corn a vegetable. What is really intereting was I had my growth spurt at 10 years old. By the time I was 12 I was 6’1″ and 225lbs. I wonder what my IGF-1 levels looked like and what effect it will have on me in the future.

  34. At 6’2″ I’ve always enjoyed being tall. I was definitely well nourished as a kid, too. I think it’s safe to say I was OVERnourished. Thankfully, I got over that.

  35. Inbreeding is also indicated in short stature. Italian immigrants were typically much shorter than ‘native’ Americans. Their children were of US average height.

    Some of this difference can be accounted for by prosperity/nutrition, but much had to do with exogamy. Most immigrants came from small villages with limited genetic diversity. After coming to the US, even if they remained in ethnic ghettos, they were likely to marry people who came from more distant locations. Hence taller kids.

    This may be true of more recent immigrants from Latin America as well, but I don’t recall hearing of it.

  36. Could the size and shape of the maxilla have something to do with height in people?

    Weston Price says in his book that when mothers had malnutrition and gave birth to a child with down syndrome, the face (the maxilla bone) shows the most severe deformity. The pituitary gland doesn’t have enough room to develop and therefor won’t function correctly, thus resulting in a hormonal imbalance.

    My mother is the last and shortest child in her family. She’s about 5’5 with short legs and short neck and was born with a cleft palate. This is extremely short for being of nordic descent.
    The first born has a wide palate with excellent facial features and is 6’2″ tall. (born in finland while mother had finnish nutrition)
    They moved to Germany and started eating rye and white sugar…also WWII was about to start.
    The 2nd child grew up tall, but ended up with a narrow face and a narrow palate with crooked teeth.
    My mother born at the end of WWII. Her Mom was severely malnurished. Gave birth to a child with cleft palate (now my Mom).

    Both parents were tall, grandmother 5’11” and grandfather 6’3″.
    My mother ended up 5’5″, and I believe it was malnutrition that caused it…not my own mother eating junk food while growing up…as stated in the article.
    The junk food back then consisted of white sugar and rye products and canned vegetables.

    Saying that tall slender people grew up on junk food is ridiculous!!!
    Don’t be a hater just cause you’re short =P

    My grandparents grew up on their traditional foods.

  37. I’m about 6’6″ – it will be interesting to see how tall my eventual kids grow.

    Oh and @Mike – I don’t know what they were talking about. I went to Penn State and saw the football players around campus a bunch of times. I was a good bit taller than most of them, including offensive linemen. Now the basketball team – that was a different story. They made me feel pretty short!

  38. Mark, I’m a believer!

    I tried to stay gluten free during my pregnancy (but hadn’t quite made the full transition until after pregnancy). My husband and I are paleo. My son does partake in gluten, but only for treats (at birthday parties, etc.) He prefers to eat a lot meat and fruit. At 36 months (3 years exactly), he is almost 41″ tall (above 95th percentile) and 33lbs (he is lean b/c he is active- 1/2 mile run with us daily, does burpees and rides his bike daily.)

  39. Hilariously enough, up until recently (so for about 18 years) I was eating absolute garbage.

    Fast food, one or two cans of coca-cola a day, not sleeping enough.

    Yet I’m a male at 6’1”

    1. Did you eat garbage before the age of 12?
      Were you breastfed?

      This is interesting 🙂

      1. Was not breastfed. Something that my mom is not proud of (but I forgave her haha).

        I lived on fast food and coke. Not the powedered junk, the soda :P.

        I get the feeling I’m just an outlier.

        Or I had an UNHEALTHY amount of growth hormone in relation to my health.

        I actually am the tallest in my family too.

  40. 6 foot and 1 inch at 17 years old and 200 lbs…And thanks to a Paleo/Primal diet..
    The same at 54 years old…..the skeleton is broken up a bit…but the muscles still ripple
    GROK ON>>>

  41. Estrogen is also supposed to halt growth in height.
    That’s why females tend to slow down way more than males when puperty hits.

    I wonder if guys that run higher than normal on estrogen during puperty end up short because of it.

  42. Diet and Nutrition definitely have an effect on child’s future height. Both of my grand parents are super short, my mom is much taller then them, and my uncle is even taller then my mom.
    I am not sure if shorter means longevity, but good nutrition equals health and health equals longevity.
    BTW I know you said at the beginning of the article that women prefer taller guys, I have to disagree because I am a woman and I love short guys, tall guys kind of scare me.

  43. My husband is Dutch and he is 6’4″ and was raised on a diet rich is dairy produce. His staples as a child were cheese, milk, eggs and butter. Grains also featured heavily on the menu with bread, cereals and legumes being top of the pile. I lived in Amsterdam for 4 years and was tired of sandwiches for lunch every day after a few weeks. I packed frittata and salad for lunch which was viewed as odd. Why didn’t I want to eat bread like everyone else?

    I am only 5’6″ but was raised in Australia on a diet consisting of meat, poultry, vegetables and fruit with some grains thrown in for good measure. I ate cheese and drank milk but neither were consumed in vast quantities.

  44. You are mixing up nutrition and genetics in a very confusing and incorrect way. People who receive adequate nutrition will reach their optimal genetically determined height. People with poor nutrition or hormonal imbalances can end up shorter (or sometimes taller) and generally have health problems to go with it. It is ridiculous to complain of “height stagnation” in the U.S. population which is extremely genetically diverse, and compare it to a small population like Holland which is less diverse. Obviously the difference is genetic. You can not make your child grow taller than his/her genetic potential by feeding the child what you believe is a superior diet. You can only prevent poor growth that would result from an inadequate diet.

  45. Interesting article. My two aunt’s lived in China (100% Russian descent) until they were 8 and 10 and suffered malnutrition. They are both short – about 5″1 and are kind of weak both psychologically and physiologically. My mother on the other hand was born when they got to Australia in 1952, is about 5″6 or 5″7 and is far more robust in all ways. Pretty big difference, huh?

  46. The reason Americans are shorter on average, is the large immigrant population skews the numbers. These folks eat “third world protein” sources, and in general eat poorly. No matter how good we eat, we can’t escape that fact.

  47. Does the decrease in height for the American population considers the waves of imigrants from ethnic groups that are naturally smaller? Maybe it hasn’t changed as much if we consider separate groups.

  48. All me and my (female) siblings are 5’8 – 5’10. Of course, there must totally be a genetic component. But, we also ate “healthy” growing up: so, while there were grains, for sure, they were never refined and always whole, and we didn’t get the yummy cereal (just the branny stuff). When mom baked pies, the crust was made with whole wheat flour. Most importantly, probably, there was zero soda, chips, candy, fast food, or any of the packaged or processed food a lot of kids get. Our mom was totally opposed. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner were always home-made. To be honest, I realize we had limited fruit too. (We did drink juice though.) — Suffice it to say, we loved eating at friend’s houses: it felt like a junk food spree — Lucky for us, we also had real butter and always full fat cheeses. The milk was 1%, the prevailing wisdom at the time.

    Anyway, maybe the controlled wannabe-healthy carbs and lack of to many of them (maybe?) helped us attain our tallness.

  49. Hmmm, I know that my sister (a type 1 diabetic) who has self induced hyperinsulinemia (eating too much crap and taking too much insulin to “cover” it) has grown as an adult, especially in her mid twenties. We used to be the same height, now she’s 2 inches taller and I have not shrunk! She also has bigger hands and facial features. I’m sure she has thrown her hormones out of whack and has somehow increased her IGF1. Just to agree, taller does not always mean healthier (not in this modern world anyway)

  50. I grew up as a competitive gymnast and we are usually short from all of the pounding on our joints, so they say. I ended up just under 5’4″ and one of the taller woman in my family. My younger brother is over 6 foot, I believe. I wonder if my being a gymnast had much influence on me being so much shorter? Though I do know of former gymnasts who ended up being about 5’10”.
    According to the CW, I have always eaten really healthy, had to for the 5 to 6 hours of training I did daily. My younger bro did eat much worse than I did. It does makes me wonder how the insulin influences your hight?

  51. I’m 5’4″ and have a 7″ schlong. Do you think it may have something to do with my diet?

    1. Who cares! Go make money selling your schlong as a dildo model 🙂

  52. I’m 6’4″, now 43yo and half sicilian!
    I think there’s a strong correlation (causation?) between dairy consumption during childhood and height. See the dutch! And what about the Massai? They’re freaking tall while on an overall low calorie diet.
    I always loved milk, cream, cheese, butter, yoghurt. Got into trouble often for eating the butter pure (or drinking the raw cream my mother bought for cooking), right from the fridge and eating the family stock of yoghurt al alone at once.
    My son (16yo) is “just” 6’0″ (btw, I was my height by 16) despite his mother comming from a tall family too.
    He doesn’t like milk and cheese as much as I do…
    About short vs. tall guys fighting my experience is that the short/stocky guys do start the fights to prove themselves. Beeing always the tallest but youngest in my class I had this happen all the time from primary school til my late teens. And I have still all my teeth… 😉

  53. Everyone is so caught up comparing inches here that no one is noticing the obvious. There is ONLY data for how tall these various early populations were, in addition to the estimated point at which humans became agrarian. That is not enough information to get excited about.

    No data is presented that indicates why poor nutrition was achieved. I don’t think early farmers would have been particularly good at it. Do you? Some would have thrived, and others not. Possibly they HAD to farm but had several generations of poor harvest (while they learned how to do it) before they produced enough grain to once again provide enough nutrition to reach normal heights. The obvious nutritional deficiencies could have been caused by what, how much, and how good the food was.

    Too strict a delineation without data will only undermine your attempt to get more people eating better.

  54. I doubt the link between health and height because Japanese and many other Asians are healthy but they are not tall.

    1. My chinese doctor in Germany was a freak at 6’1″ tall. He was from Hong Kong and immigrated to Germany ’cause he married a German.

  55. One question is what is the average human’s genetic height? I think it’s around 6 feet tall or so for men. In other words if a man grows up under 6 feet tall then it shows a childhood of poor nutrition and/or a number of illnesses. Hence traditional Westerners were short during most of the agricultural peroid – never enough food (esp. protein) while regularly getting ill. Conversely, hunter-gatherer people with plentiful balanced food and exercise (and general absence of disease as evidenced by the death toll when Westerners arrived with their diseases) have had a tendency towards being tall and muscular. Hence I would agree with the idea of the article that height is one good measure of peoples’ health.

  56. Interesting article if indeed I ever (decide to) get offspring.

    I guess I would’ve been taller as well if not for eating a grain heavy diet during childhood. Now being at 170cm I don’t complain too much although almost everybody here in the Nordics is taller than me. I’m taller than my parents though… I wonder why that happens…

  57. “After all, who would you rather fight …”. Think the dreaded Zdeno Chara, a defenceman of Boston Bruins, at 6 ft 9 🙂

  58. I saw an exhibit at the Museum of London 15year ago where they displayed skeletons found in excavations in London dating back over well over 2000 years (London area has been settled for thousands of years) and the striking thing was how much taller the pre-17th Century people were; their teeth were better, teeth and bones showed far less evidence of modern disease. The skeletons from the late 17th Century into the 20th Century showed diseased bones, teeth, & much shorter. The signal change pointed to in the exhibit was the introduction of sugar into the British diet. As I came upon the paleo/primal hypothesis of diet, it took very little convincing after having seen the exhibit.

  59. Never seen so many people patting themselves on the back for something they had nothing to do with; being above average height. Odd.

  60. I’m 6′ even, which is quite tall for a woman! I come from a tall family on both sides…my dad is 6’3″ and my mom is around 5’7″. I’m the oldest, and my sister, the 2nd oldest–we are both about the same height. My little brother ended up the shortest, actually, at about 5’10.5″. Our family ancestry is mostly German and Irish (lots of Irish, actually, so we must have gotten our height from the German side). I ate an OK diet as a child (at least lots of home-cooked meals and veggies from our garden), but WAY to much sugar and grains and skim milk, so I’m pretty sure most of my height is gene-related. I used to hate being taller than all the guys I knew, but then I found my husband, who is just about 1/2″ taller than me (strangely, his heritage is Korean and Irish?! But I guess the Korean side of his family is quite tall.), so its all good. And now that I know how to sew, I actually have pants that are long enough, YAY! =D

  61. I have a 92 year old grandmother who stands a full 4’10” (in atheletic shoes). The woman is a force of nature. Of the women in my family I am the tallest, standing 5’2″ barefoot. The men come in only two heights- 5’8″ and 6’2″. Studying only my family I have observed two things. 1- The women live much, much longer despite their bad habits. 2- The shorter you are the more fierce you are. Although the nicest woman in the world, you don’t cross my grandma. She can still throw a 6’+, muscular man to the ground and make him cry like a little girl. Then again that might be why she has lived so long.

  62. When I was in the Sudan almost 30 years ago, I noticed some of the People in the southern part of the country were quite tall and thin. Many of the men were well over 6 feet in height. Life expectancy in that country is short and the climate is unhealthy to say the least.

  63. This fully goes along with the creationist point of view. Interesting.

  64. As a tall dude, I enjoyed the confidence boost I got from reading this, regardless of whether health and height go hand in hand or not.

  65. “… some researchers have linked “excessive” height to poor health and longevity… there is some evidence that the shorter among us live the longest … Perhaps short stature is more beneficial to women?”

    I have somewhere heard that a researcher looking into greater female than male longevity tried correlating with other things that varied between females and males – like height and weight, smoking, alcohol, etc. He found that, once you adjusted for those, life expectancy was very similar. In other words, the effect making women live longer is indirect, working by affecting either the processes acting on or those driven by height, weight, etc. Even without endocrine problems there is a material downside from being several inches taller than six feet, and a statistically significant one from being taller than just under six feet (see Gary Deagle’s comment).

    1. Yes, Professor Miller found that taller men did not live as long as women. However, when he compared men and women of the same height, they had the same longevity. I found that among US males and females born around 1980, men lost .5 yr/cm of increased height in life expectancy. This number was found by Miller and Krakauer in Ohio and Swedish studies. In addition, small male dogs live longer than big females dogs. Small male mice also live longer than normal size female siblings.

  66. Height does give you some help in business success, but what many people miss is how much charisma can make you more successful.

  67. Just remember there are races within the white race. The Alpine Race was shorter in statue (legs, arms and neck, rib cage with bigger lunges) and rather stout.
    For thousands of years they climbed up and down the mountain range. Their bodies evolved within that territory.
    Then you have tribes of people that evolved for thousands of years nomading through the terrain, travelling great distances on foot, growing long legs.
    Then you get the mediteranians who didn’t travel much at all and didn’t climb rocky mountains ever…ended up rather short and delicate compared to the rest of europe.

    So, if a stout swiss marries a long and tall fin, what comes of it?
    Short and white doesn’t always mean you’re malnourished or have otherwise something wrong with you.

    White doesn’t always mean white…us europeans don’t consider Italians ‘white’, but for american standards, they are caucasian. There are many races within the ‘white’ race.
    If that makes any sense.

    1. Here are some of the races in Europe:

      Alpine, Baltic, Dinarid, Mediterranean and Nordic.

      Alpine is heavy, broad, short necks, of average height, light skin but not pink.

      Baltic is medium short, round face, fair skin with light eyes.

      Dinarid is the race of the Balkans. That travelled from the middle east to europe and mixed with the other races. This group makes up about 20% of all europeans, especially the central.
      High to medium high tall (depending on with race they mixed with), skin tans easily, slim, slightly aquiline nose.

      Mediterranean is short, finer bones and olive to darker olive skin.

      Nordic has ‘orange’ hair as a base color of the hair. You can see strands of red hair within the regular hair color. Pink skin that flushes easily, athletic build. Blue or green eyes.
      This race is considered the peak of human evolution.

      I’m 5’10” tall, strands of red hair but overall ashy dark blond. Tan easily and only turn pink with the first sun. I have green eyes. I am considered a Dinarid, a mixture of 2 races between the middle east nomads and the nordic.
      This is confirmed by my parents ancestry books (which are original and signed by each parent and passed down generations).
      My fathers family came from the southern balkan region, close to the middle east and my mother’s is from Finland.

      1. “peak of human evolution” … okay, keep telling yourself that clown

  68. I see a few posts about Ireland here. I’m Irish and a tall lady at 5ft 8 (173cm) but always being told I look taller. One of my colleagues had me down as a 6 fter! I know a lot of tall girls – though I note some comments on how the Irish are generally short. This is certainly true for the men. Good grief – what went wrong there? How did the Dutch get so tall though with other European countries not following suit. It’s a little curious. I have met quite a few Dutch and it’s true they’re all very very tall!!

  69. I do not think you can attribute much to being Irish or ‘of Viking descent’ etc. etc. because I am of extremely mixed descent – read mongrel who then marrried someone whose family comes from the Balkans – more mongrel. I’m the runt of the family at 5’9″ and there isn’t a male in the family who is under 6′. Our very mongrel children stand 6′ 6″ and 6′ 1″ and one of them is a duaghter. Americans are short?!?! Not in this family, thanks.

  70. Hi,

    I’d like to respond to comments by other researchers to my findings on height and longevity mentioned in the above excellent article. They state that I ignore the benefits of industrialization. However, I have reported that during the 20th century, industrialized countries saw a large increase in Western diseases, such as coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and many types of cancers. For example, a 600+ page report by the World Cancer Research Fund (2007) stated that until recently, people following their traditional plant-based diets were free of these diseases until they started eating more like the developed world. The famous researcher, Denis Burkitt, MD, in his book: Western Diseases, found little evidence of diseases common to Western countries in the non developed world. He stated that during the 20th century, the industrialized world has experienced an explosive growth in chronic diseases common to the West.

    While non-developed populations have low life expectancy due to high infant mortality, infectious diseases, traumas, and poor medical care, most of the world’s elderly live in non-developed and developed nations. However, when they start developing and adopting increased animal protein and processed foods, they experience sharp increases in Western diseases. For example, a study in rapidly developing India found that young and middle age Indians were experiencing an epidemic of coronary heart disease and diabetes.

    The South African researcher, ARP Walker, also reported that rural South African blacks were free of coronary heart disease and cancer back in the 1970s. These blacks consumed much less food than the general white population in South Africa. They were also substantially lighter and shorter than the white population. Walker found that they could expect to live longer once they reached 50 years of age and they had a higher percent of 100 year olds compared to whites.

    Lindeberg et al. studied people in Kitava, an island off Papua New Guinea, which is one of the least Westernized populations in the world. After 10 years of study, the researchers found these short and thin people were free of coronary heart disease and stroke. The males were 5’4.

    Barry Popkin, Professor of Global Nutrition and Obesity reported recently that the food system developed over the last 150 years by nutritional scientists has had a devastating impact on our health and obesity levels.

    The John Hopkins Medical Letter reported recently that about 50% of Americans over 65 years of age take 5 or more medications a day and 25% take 10 to 20 per day. This doesn’t seem to indicate good health to me. The developed world has done a great job at minimizing infant and childhood mortality but a terrible job in helping us avoid chronic diseases and disabilities. Most of the credit for greater longevity in the developed world goes to improved sanitation, hygiene, food preservation, and avoiding or curing infections and communicable diseases. Modern medicine has also played a major role in keeping the elderly alive and functioning.

    Returning to the criticism that I ignored contrary data, none of the researchers who reviewed my book: Human Body Size and the Laws of Scaling (2007) have said that I presented unbalanced facts. In fact, one reviewer said I was unusually fair in presenting both viewpoints.

    My website lists all my publications. You can make up your own minds.

    Tom Samaras

  71. Not sure if someone posted this or not, as i only read about half the comments, but what about the effects of living in a world not made for you?

    Generally speaking tall people break down earlier, just from anecdotal evidence. Some say thats a sign of genetic weakness or gravity having more of an effect. The last one there i think is absurd personally. Im 6’4″ 208lb. and i have to remind people that tall people are not the norm, and we are living in a world meant for shorties. We are always getting things down from high places, and putting them up there. Cars can be a problem fitting in. Desks in school are often way too small and cause us to have to slouch to be comfortable. All this stuff over the short term is unnoticeable. But over the long term can have a cumulative effect.

    In short (pun), the rest of you need to catch up, so us tall folk can catch a break man!

    1. The heart of a taller, heavier person works harded to pump blood through the body and to greater height. With the exception of the heart and lungs, smaller people have bigger organs in proportion to their weight when compared to comparable taller people of similar builds. Larger organs have a greater functional capacity.

      Another problem with bigger bodies is that they require more cell doublings to produce their bigger bodies as they grow from infancy to adulthood. Thus, taller, bigger people have more cells and have to replace more cells over a lifetime due to damage done by free radicals. The problem is that human somatic cells can only replicate 50 to 70 times in a lifetime. Compared to tall people, a recent study showed that among 90 year olds, the shorter people had more potential cell doublings left to replace defective or dead cells. The shorter 90 year olds also had better survival after that age.

      Tall people should not get upset about this situation. However, they need to take better care of themselves. Avoiding smoking and excessive drinking, consume a healthful low-animal product diet, exercise regularly, regular get health checkups, manage stress, get enough sleep, etc. A healthful lifestyle and some luck with good genes can offset the negative effects of fewer potential cell replications. Many tall people can live a long time.

    2. Lol, or maybe you need to catch up and reach equilibrium a five foot eight (universal average) 🙂

  72. Coming from a short family of men I can honestly say they are tougher than most men. bth grandfathers were highly succesful military vets.One of them a pilot and amatuer boxer. My uncle is a race car driver.The toughest guy I knew in school was my hieght,5’7,and state champ wrestler,he was a bulldog.I know women generally dont care for shorter men,thats fine and makes some sense but dont think they cant protect you,its usually the opposite.

  73. Very interesting article. As a 6’2 woman, I’m always interested to read what height shakes out to, aside from constantly getting asked if I play basketball.

  74. One obvious reason for the stagnation of height increases in the US is the not politically correct observation of massive immigration of short populations since the mid 1970’s.

    It certainly hasn’t been for the lack of calories, a long serving attribution for height tendencies.

    The Dutch, on the other end of the scale, haven’t had the “short peoples immigration” we have had, and their easily accessed universal health care helps insure healthy babies and healthy adults by almost any measure.

    In fact, the US is somewhere around #20 in infant mortality.

    1. That’s wrong on two counts:-

      – In the 1950s the Dutch took in a great many people from the former Dutch East Indies who were no longer safe because they had supported the Dutch.

      – The Dutch have not always had that access to good health care and nutrition. In particular, in the winter of 1944-5 war brought famine to the unliberated parts (so creating a natural experiment, as there was a control population). This did not merely affect those young then or born soon after, since maternal size affects foetal nutrition; the children of those children experienced consequential effects.

  75. All the 5’8″-ish women that call themselves ‘tall’….puh…uh…leeeeease.
    You’re not tall ’til you hit at least 5’10″…and even that I’d consider rather normal.

    1. 5’10? for females is not normal/average by any statistic data 🙂 For men maybe (I think the overall averaga is an inch lower) but for women ? No way.

    2. 5’10? for females is not normal/average by any statistic data 🙂 For men maybe (I think the overall average is an inch lower) but for women ? No way.

      1. I didn’t say 5’10 was average or normal.
        I said 5’10” is the beginning of tall. All those women that are 5’8 and under are not tall, they’re average/normal.
        If you’re female and 5’7 you’re not tall.

        1. Actually, 5’7″ is 3.3″ taller than the average American woman. An American women who is 5’8″ is taller than 95% of the female population. That qualifies her as being tall. There is a 5.5″ difference between the average American woman and the Average man. Both height distributions are bell-shaped curves with 50% of the populations falling with +/- 2″ of the mean, which means that 5’7″ is the female equivalent of a 6’0.5″ man.

  76. As a male I have NO desire to possibly live longer by being shorter. I count my 6’3″ height as a real blessing in life, especially, ahem, mate selection. And even though my genetics (and paleo diet!) indicate I will live into my 90’s or longer, I have no desire to necessarily fulfill that destiny. Long life is highly overrated.

    And folks, stop it with the personal anecdotes of some relative or distant population. Absolutely of no scientific value. Too many variables, n-1 is not statistically valid.

    1. Being over six feet does not make it easier to find a mate, personality and physical attractiveness do. I will admit though that you may have more choices being at least taller than 5’10”. My brother is 5’9″, is very good looking, and has a great personality, his girlfriend is HOT and stands at 6 feet. She’s also one of the coolest girls I’ve met. Maybe that’s part of it, all those convential insecure women out there. These types of women make it hard for any man that want a woman with a personality that isn’t caddy and superficial to find a mate. There are waaay too many of them out there. I’ll admit, there’s a lot of boring closed minded deuchebag men out there too, so maybe the population matches up just fine.

      Long life is overrated if you are aging and deteriorating at a rapid rate. I, like Mark and many others, hope to keep feeling good and functioning at a high enough level to enjoy life for a long time. We may see some therapies develop that allow us to do this in our lifetime. In the meantime, we simply take great care of ourselves, choose our supplements wisely, and have as much fun as possible.

  77. I wonder why according to the evolutionary way of looking at mating or attraction, women are suppose to like taller men and men are worried about other traits in women.
    My husband likes tall women, lucky for me, and I like stocky, muscular guys (even when they are only five feet seven inches tall. (Lucky for him.)

    I know -it’s anecdotal so it doesn’t count. But on the health related stuff a lot of times people say use your own experience to tell you what’s true about your body.

    I like paleo/ primal explanations for food, but I’m skeptical of the claims about attraction. I suppose I think culture disrupts these things to a certain extent – and not always in a negative way. For example, my girlfriends and I think that humor is a really important characteristic in choosing a partner.

    Also – how does the evolutionary way of thinking about mates and attraction account for homosexuality?
    Just wondering.

    1. On that last point, there are a few theories and only some evidence. On the evidence, twin and sibling studies show that there is a hereditary component to homosexuality, but that it is not completely determining (e.g., identical twins share the same orientation more often than randomly, but they don’t always share it). So the theories have to account for that and also explain why it doesn’t breed out over time anyway. But there are still different possible reasons, and the evidence isn’t enough to show which (or which combination) is right, if any. Here are some, with the first one being the currently most popular:-

      – There is something hereditary that makes women more attractive and also more likely to breed, that can show up in men as homosexuality. The breeding out effect of the latter would be overwhelmed by the advantage of the former, so maintaining the trait(s). Con: this doesn’t explain lesbians (so it can’t be the whole story). Pro: there are more male than female homosexuals (so it could still be part of the story).

      – Evolution simply hasn’t caught up with modern lifestyles yet. Traits that now produce non-breeding homosexuality might not have been non-breeding traits under other circumstances. E.g., many tribes have age segregation, with women and breeding reserved for the elders and young men indulging in other ways (if at all). It is quite plausible that homosexuals would breed better than heterosexuals under those circumstances, since they wouldn’t get killed fighting for/stressing out over women while they waited, and as elders with lower sex drive but under cultural pressure (including an incentive to have descendants to support them in old age) they might be able to mate with women because of being less distracted by then. Of course, there is no ethical way to study this.

      – Having non-breeding but supportive uncles might have helped children make it through a high mortality childhood, so encouraging traits that provided such uncles.

      That’s not an exhaustive list, of course.

  78. A 6’5″ man will usually have a much larger penis than a 5’8″ manlet.

    Women like large penises.

    A 6’5″ man will usually be happier than a 5’8″ manlet.

  79. I’m a Dinarid and proud of it.
    Tall and slender.
    Longer legs than upper body ratio. Oval face with narrower mandible, pronounced cheekbones and a long neck. Tan easily to a golden brown, ashy dark hair that bleaches easily in the sun, green eyes with brown spots, no freckles.

    Like someone posted above there are 5 distinct races from within europe.
    Alpine, Baltic, Mediterranean, Nordic and Dinarid. The dinarids are the only ones with longer legs than upper body length. If you have the same length legs as upper body (or shorter legs than upper body) then you are not a dinarid and probably one of the other races or a mixture of them.

    All this has been proven by anthropologists and bones that have been recovered from certain areas.

    Nutrition might play a role in bone development (especially the facial bones and maxilla) but I don’t think someone could decline by 4 inches of leg length, or more, in 1 generation.

  80. Milk does promote growth but Colin Campbell, a nutritional biochemist, avoids this food because it contains animal protein and insulin-like growth factor-1. Both promote chronic disease as well as increased height and body size.

    Professor Walter Willett, Chairman of the Nutrition Department at Harvard, recently reported that red meat and processed meats promote cancer, heart disease, diabetes and all-cause mortality. He recommends a plant-based diet with little sugar, salt, and simple carbohydrates.

    Dr. Campbell was raised on a milk farm and drank quite a bit during his youth. I drank 2 quarts a day while growing up and wound up about 6 inches taller than my father and mother.

    Researcher Silventoinen reported that the Western diet promotes both greater height and coronary heart disease.

    People who follow plant-based diets in non-developed populations usually don’t drink cow’s milk and rarely get the chronic diseases common in the West until they become Westernized.

    For more information on height and growth see my
    blog and website:

    Tom Samaras

  81. Big and tall, meat-eating American soldiers lost to small and short, rice-eating Vietnamese guerrillas from 1955-1975.

  82. Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not. For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes. Even between the land and the ship.

  83. I’m Dutch and at 1.78m I recall always being among the 3 shortest guys (they were of equal length) in high school..

    My girlfriend is 1.77m

    I’ve got friends and colleagues whose *shoulders* are level with the top of my head. =( :S

  84. Hi Mark. Enjoyed your article and agree that we can’t change our heights. However, we can change the heights of future generations. In addition, I have a few points to make. The scientists that say I have ignored conflicting evidence should read my books and papers. Actually it’s the critics who have ignored the evidence. For example, have they reported the following data that conflicts with their belief that taller is healthier in their papers?

    1. National US data show that shorter Asians have a much lower mortality rate compared to taller White and Black males. In addition, Latinos and Native Americans are in between Asians and White/Blacks in both height and mortality rates. That is, mortality rises with increasing height for the five ethnic groups reported. This Government study is based on about 18 million deaths between 1985 and 1999. These findings are hard to ignore but they have been out there for years.

    2. Why do critics ignore the 1991 Holzenberger study. This study tracked about 1 million men from their youth to their deaths and found that they lost 0.8 yr/cm of increased height. I haven’t come across references to his work. If they are out there, they appear to be rare. If Holzenberger had found that tall men live longer, I’m sure it would have gotten wide circulation.

    3. If we look at life expectancy data (CIA World Factbook, 2001), the top six populations in terms of life expectancy are substantially shorter than the six tallest populations in Western europe. Yet, populations like Japan, Hong Kong, and Singapore ranked about 3.5 from the top compared to a ranking of 28 for taller Scandinavians, Germans and the Dutch.

    4. The latest study on height was published a few months ago and is entitled: Height and Survival at Older Ages Among Men Born in an Inland Village in Sardinia (Italy), 1866-2006. It was published in Biodemography and Social Biology. This study found that within an isolated, homogeneous population, shorter men lived 2 years longer than taller ones. Their average height was 5’3″; they are the shortest people in Sardinia and also the longest living. This study is consistent with earlier findings in Sardinia which found that shorter men live longer. To my knowledge, pro tall height epidemiologists also conveniently ignored these findings.

    5. Women are smaller than males and live longer. Professor Miller found that when he compared men and women of the same height, they lived the same number of years. This finding is consistent with the fact that small male dogs live longer than larger breed females. Miller’s study, which also found shorter people live longer, was also given short shrift.

    6. Professor Alex Comfort and many other scientists have pointed out that smaller individuals within a species generally live longer than larger individuals. This includes dogs, mice, rats, cows, ponies vs horses and Asian elephants vs African elephants.

    7. About 2000 caloric restriction studies have shown that early caloric restriction leads to smaller bodies and much greater longevity. However, caloric restriction must be associated with a nutritious diet and good environment.

    Professor Bartke recently published a review in Gerontology which concluded that smaller is better for our health and longevity: DOI:10.1159/000335166

    The preceding is only a small fraction of the evidence: see my website for a list of about 40 papers are available. It lists the articles and books that I have authored or co-authored.

    I agree that nutrition, medical care, standard of living, lifestyle, income, etc can neutralize the benefits of smaller body size because height represents only 10% of the longevity picture. Thus, upper class people tend to be taller and the various advantages of a better lifestyle and medical care can promote lower mortality, especially in middle age years. (I know of no studies of centenarians that found they were on average tall.) However, Chinese, Japanese, Italian and American researchers have reported that being short and light was common among centenarians.

    I sympathize with researchers who have believed taller height is healthier most of their lives. It is hard for them to open their minds to the possibility that the opposite may be true. I hope they will rethink their old beliefs based on a false connection between nutrition and height because our life expectancy has increased. I doubt that they would believe that being fat is desirable because our life expectancy has risen sharply in parallel with increasing human obesity. I suggest that they consider Professor Rollo’s observation that the high meat and calorie diets of industrialized populations accelerates aging. If it didn’t, why does 50% of 65 year old Americans take 5 medications a day and 25% take 10 to 20 medications per day?

    We can’t change our heights, but we can lower our body weight while on a wholesome diet that minimizes the promotion of chronic diseases that have been promoted by our industrial diets, which are too high in animal protein, processed foods, and calories.

  85. Re: Mary’s Primal/paleo enthusiasts paint…..

    According to my sources, early man was of moderate height and about 150 pounds. And I agree that if they didn’t get killed in warfare or by predators, they probably lived a long time. There’s no doubt that today’s hunter gathers and nomads don’t have a high life expectancy. However, this lower life expectancy is due to a high infant mortality, lack of medical care, and death from infections and injuries. In short developing populations following traditional diets, few people over 60 years of age die from chronic diseases. For example, the 5′ Yanomamo Indians (South America) have been found to be free of heart disease and strokes. When they move to urban areas and change their diet, their heart disease increases rapidly.

    If we look at developed populations, coronary heart disease is lowest in Japan, Hong Kong, France, Portugal, Spain and Italy. Substantially higher rates occur in the taller Scandinavian populations, Holland, Germany and Finland. In terms of life expectancy, in an earlier paper, I reported that the six populations with the greatest longevity were Andorra, Macao, Japan, San Marino, Singapore and Hong Kong. The tallest Western European populations ranked 28th from the top in life expectancy compared to 3.5 from the top for these shorter populations.

    Tom Samaras

  86. So, given the concept that shorter people live longer than taller people, on average.
    From that we can deduct that North Koreans should on average live longer than South Koreans. And furthermore South Koreans probably eat more processed food than the North. Below is an interesting article that agrees with this theory.


  87. I also believe that growth hormones in our meat and dairy products have led to the increase in height and foot size.

  88. I had Samaras on my podcast about a month ago and we talked about the link between stature and overall health.

    I would suspect that the reason why taller people don’t live as long is due to cell replication rates. You already know about the Hayflick Limit so I won’t bore the people with a genetic lesson.

    Taller people are taller because when their growth plate cartilage was still around, the replication rate of their chondrocytes was higher. This meant their longitudinal growth and height was elevated.

    When they stopped growing taller, the cell replication rate was still higher than average. That replication rate of their cells was genetically always slightly higher than average. this meant that the person was moving faster towards cell breakdown or senescence.

    If you look at taller people, on average their face would look older than average. Shorter people have a slower cell replication speed so they will on average look slightly younger than average.

    1. Yes. In addition, because taller people have trillions of more cells, more cells are damaged during daily living and need to be replaced resulting in a lower capacity to replace cells in old age. Maier et al. in the Netherlands found short 90 year olds had longer telomeres than tall 90 years. Longer telomeres indicate a higher potential cell replication potential and they found short 90 year olds lived longer. Other studies have found that older shorter people tend to survive into old age somewhat more than taller ones.

  89. Too much of a good thing is a bad thing. I don’t think the human frame is designed to fit people well once over 6′. That is. once that person is past their prime

  90. There’s a conversion error, though. I use the metric system, being non-anglophone European, and haven’t an innate sense of cm/in conversion but knowing my 163cm is 5’4” I can tell 161cm can’t be 5’5.4” but approx 5’3” which proves the point even more, in fact. After looking at the source, it seems two lines of the table got confused, 161cm is for late neolithic and 5’5.4” is the line below that, early Bronze.

  91. Hi Mark,

    Good comments on height and health.

    I just had a paper published in Nutrition and Health: How height is related to our health and longevity: a review: DOI: 10.1177/0260106013510996

    The idea that our modern diet is healthful is simply not true. Researchers, such as Campbell, Rollo, Popkin, Burkitt, Trowell, and Farb attributed our increased height to over nutrition, not good nutrition. The impressive 2007 report by the World Cancer Research Fund and reports by Harvard and Tufts Universities tell us that red meat and processed meats promote cancer, heart disease and diabetes. In addition, people following traditional diets, which are usually plant-based, are free of chronic disease until they adopt a Western type diet. For example, the Yanomamo indians in South America are 5’ tall and free of heart disease until they leave their villages and move to towns which have different diets and lifestyles.

    As I mentioned in my paper, in 1900 men 75 years of age had a 8.5 year life expectancy. In 2000, men 75 years of age had a 10 year life expectancy. In spite of huge developments in health care and medicine, the men in 2000 only saw a 1.5 year increase in life expectancy. The men in 1900 also worked about 60 hours a week at physically difficult and dangerous jobs.

    A Gallup poll found that 86% of the US work force has a chronic health problem or is obese. Since much of the work force is rather young, this is a terrible statement about our so-called good health. Another study found that for people over 65 years of age, 50% take 5 or more medications a day.
    Twenty-five percent take 10 to 20 medications a day.

    Studies also show higher income people live about 5 years longer than poor people. in one Scottish city an 11 year difference was found. Since higher income people are usually taller than poor people, it is mistakenly assumed that tallness is tied to better health. The fact is that higher income people eat smarter, have better health care, and follow lifestyle practices that promote health and longevity,

    My point is that we are living longer because of advances in sanitation, antibiotics, medicine and safer work places. We are not living longer because of better nutrition and health.

    If you can’t get the paper, let me know.

    Tom Samaras

  92. I presume that what you guys mostly mentioned about indicates that taller person is better downrightly.. concluding better nutrition in childhood, to some extent to the better indication of social success..

    I am 5.8.. my father is much taller than me.. I am overcoming stereotyping norm..

  93. I am a senior and stand at 5’8″. I never until very recently was even remotely conscious of my height .But now I have become very conscious of american males reaching heights of 6′ feet or better, especially our younger generation. This is the norm as compared to my generation growing up. What is even more amazing is the fact that European males reach heights of 6′ or better and that is the norm. I recently visited a few western european countries and witnessed this phenom first hand. What factor(s) led to my comparative shortness in stature when growing up???

    1. In the view of many scientists, our increasing height is due to over nutrition. Diet plays a major role and a high intake of animal protein,milk and calories promote increased growth factors which promote greater height. Of course, genetic factors play a role as well.

      Childhood illnesses also affect growth. If a child is subjected to emotional or psychological trauma, this would decrease growth hormone secretions which in turn would decrease height.

      Birthweight also plays an important role. Studies have found that birthweight is strongly correlated with final height and weight. Your mother’s height is also another factor. If a mother is thin when she gives birth, this would reduce birthweight and future growth as well.

  94. Genetics is an important factor related to one’s height. However, many environmental factors affect how tall one actually becomes.

    Birth weight is correlated with adult height most of the time, and birth weight is related to your mother’s height, weight before pregnancy, and weight gain during pregnancy.

    A high protein and calorie diet also promotes taller height. The Western diet has been associated with increased height and heart disease. For example, my father was 5’4 and was raised on a sparse diet in Southern Europe. I was born in the US and ate a lot of meat, milk and calories and grew to 5’10.

    Childhood illness or trauma can stunt growth also. For example chronic digestive and respiratory problems play an important role.

    If you are concerned about your height, you might find this new article of interest: Thomas T. Samaras, Why smaller humans are in our future. It appeared in the online magazine, Policy Innovations, published by the think tank, Carnegie Council.

  95. My husband is 5’5″” and has an IQ of 150. We have been married 39 years, please feel free to draw your own conclusion.

    1. Many shorter men have been exceptionally intelligent and talented. Even in the business world, many successful men were short, such as Andrew Carnegie, Onassis, Bloomberg, Ross Perot, Armand Hammer, Herbert Haft and David Murdock. In addition, many famous scientists, writers, artists and political and military leaders were short.

      1. I think the problem is height prejudice amongst men bolstered by women that place these men in high position. Then in return these men, belittle these women sexually and don’t let them advance and they complain. I think part of the issue involving me to movement is women should look in the mirror themselves and and their own discriminatory behavior when it comes to dating and anything social because it affects their advancement. You can’t be the victim and perpetrator at the same time. If it’s not discrimination and is preference it doesn’t have to be vocalized or even discussed in private. in other words it would be wrong to discuss hatred towards black people in private. Also scientific studies do not correlate health with height but they do correlate being slim, not skinny not fat, body weight with health. Perhaps height works similarly. The best soccer player in the world is 5 foot 8. #this is not a scientific article. also just a side note the way America spreads its propaganda to the world, I am American by the way, this through half-truths and not telling the whole story. It’s the rich powerful tall white men that control information and information is power. Thus, we should use our intelligence and research before concluding. By the way I am a 5 foot 8 guy with a chip on my shoulder obviously and I do love my height. I am healthier than most guys out there. I have a six pack, am highly intelligent, athletic, optimal cholesterol and sugar levels, and I look at these guys I’m like why do they get preference amongst girls. Behavior speaks louder than words.That is the definition of discrimination. Then these girls yell me to try to shifter anger to shorter guys. That is hypocrisy.

  96. Wow, has anyone heard of recessive genes. I am 5’3″ and have a tiny body frame. Interestingly enough, I am from a family of Amazon’s. Most of my female relatives were 6 feet.

  97. The evidence that shorter, smaller people live longer is more than substantial. For example, studies have found shorter people in the following groups have greater lifespans or longevity :

    1. Ohio men and women
    2. San Diego veterans
    3. West Point graduates
    4. Elderly Hawaiians
    5. Spanish men
    6. Men in a small village in Sardinia
    7. Harvard male graduates
    8. Smaller twins who were in WWII
    9. 90 year olds in the Netherlands
    10. Elderly men in Sweden
    11. Athletes in Finland
    12. US baseball players
    13. US basketball players

    Of course smaller women live longer than larger men. I found that US men were 9% taller and had a 9% lower life expectancy.

    The above findings need to be taken with care because they apply to groups of people. On an individual basis, other factors are more important than height. Height is only one factor out of many that affect longevity. The other factors are weight, diet, economic status, education, exercise habits, smoking, drinking and drug habits, a stressful environment, genetics, and social networks. Consequently, many tall people can live a long time.

  98. In America, one of the problems with height is that many men prefer shorter mates. This is coming from a tall female who didn’t marry until 30-something, and finally found a 6-foot guy. I like my height and my strength but it seems to intimidate some. I noticed also, that very short women who married long before me, ended up having to get C-sections. How’s that for evolution if they can’t even get a baby out?

    1. There are people in Asia not as tall and do not have trouble with C-section. Maybe it’s a white girl thing.

  99. You’re right it is pointless and inconclusive… I can argue that five foot eight is the healthiest height which I believe. Because the Native Americans were eating berries highly active with a balanced lifestyle and they were 5’8″ anything over could be a sign of gigantism and prone to knee disorders and demanding nutrition that the digestive system can’t support

  100. The same argument can be made that an average 5’8″ height is superior because there’s a lot of downfalls for being taller

  101. Actually, American men who are under 6′ almost always over self-report their height. I am 5’11.5″ when measured in bare feet in a doctor’s office. I have guys telling me all of the time that I must be over 6’1″ because they are 5’11” when they are more like 5’8″ or 5’9″ on a good day. The reality is that the average American male is not 5’10.5″. He is 5’9.2″ according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which is the best source for height data in the United States because the measurements they use are taken by medical practitioners ( The average American woman is 5’3.7″. Spreading incorrect height data is what drives so many American men to lie about their height. That being said, average height is a good indicator of public health, which is why the CDC compiles the statistic.

  102. During the last several years, much more research has been published that supports the greater longevity of shorter people. This includes:

    1. Shorter basketball players live longer than taller ones (Lemez).
    2. Shorter US men and women have lower mortality vs. taller ones (Sohn)
    3. Shorter men in Sardinia live longer than taller men (Salaris) Note: Sardinians are the shortest Europeans and have the highest percentage of centenarians (Caselli)
    4. Shorter elderly Japanese males in Hawaii live longer (He)
    5. A study of 67 year old Swedish males found that men who were shorter were more likely to reach 90 years of age (Wilhelmsen)
    6. A study of retired West Point Graduates found shorter men lived longer (Mueller)
    7. A study of 2 million deceased Polish men and women found that shorter people lived longer (Chmielewski)
    8. A Government report based on ~18 million US men and women found that Asians had the lowest mortality and whites and blacks the highest. Hispanics and Native Americans were in between these two groups. The heights of these ethnic groups were positively related to their mortality.

    Government data show that shorter US states have the highest life expectancies and shorter states have the lowest. The CIA World Factbook reports that the longest living populations are Monaco, Japan, Macau, Hong Kong, Singapore, San Morino, Andorra and Iceland (tall). Almost all these populations are shorter than Western Europeans and Americans.

    Alex Comfort and many other scientists have found that within a species, smaller individuals live longer. That’s why human and animal females live longer than males. The longer lifespan of dogs has been well researched. Ashley Montagu, Lawrence Galton, Richard Gubner and many other researchers have questioned the benefits of increasing body size. Noble Prize winner in physics,Charles Townes, also reported that smaller body size was an advantage for greater longevity.

    Yes, there are conflicts with other studies but most studies that find taller people have lower mortality rates do not look at deceased populations or populations tracked into advanced ages. Researchers have found that the longevity benefits of shorter height don’t show up until 60, 70 or 80 years of age, depending on the population studied.

    1. I made a mistake in the third from last paragraph. The second line should say the “taller” not the “shorter” states have the lowest.