Height Is Indicator Of Fitness For Past And Primitive Ancestors

Just  a quick thought while I was taking a walk yesterday which the studies and researchers seem to agree with.


Based on how many mutations can cause bad effects, and how they almost all lead to stunted growth and short stature, it would seem that for our ancient more primitive ancestors , being taller and exhibiting large size may have been the best most obvious indicator of our genetic fitness and health. As for the modern human, it may not be possible for most humans to disassociate away from the belief that there is a link between height and health. 

However there does seem to be an inverse relationships between height and longevity seen in mostly female populations, which the articles below seem to validate. Being a male, there seems to not be not longevity loss when being tall. So is being taller better? Most of the time yes, but not always.

From NPR website HERE….

Measuring A Country’s Health By Its Height


October 25, 2010

Tiffani Mundaray has brought her son Wayne for a well-baby visit in the pediatric practice at Howard University Hospital in Washington, D.C. At age 2, he’s 36 1/4 inches tall — in the 90th percentile.

“His growth velocity is very nice. It’s very appropriate for his age,” says Sohail Rana, Wayne’s pediatrician. “He’s growing well.”

Nancy Shute/NPRAt age 2, Wayne Mundaray is 36 1/4 inches tall — and in the 90th percentile.

From the day we’re born, height equals health. Babies are measured to make sure they’re thriving.

But doctors aren’t the only people who look to height as a sign of health.

Economists like John Komlos of the University of Munich in Germany use height to measure the health of entire countries.  “Height is like holding a mirror to society’s well-being,” Komlos says.

And, it turns out, by that standard, the United States isn’t measuring up.

Fallen From The Top

Through most of American history, we’ve been the tallest population on the planet. Americans were two inches taller than the Englishmen they fought in the Revolutionary War, thanks to abundant food and a healthy rural life, far from the disease-ridden cities of Europe.

But we’re no longer at the top. Northern Europeans are now the world’s tallest people, led by the Dutch. The average Dutch man is 6 feet tall, while the average American man maxes out at 5-foot-9.

Height is like holding a mirror to society’s well-being.

– John Komlos, economist at the University of Munich

Good health care and good nutrition during pregnancy and early childhood are two reasons why the Dutch have grown so tall, Komlos says. In addition, the Dutch guarantee equal access to critical resources like prenatal care. That’s not the case in the United States, where 17 percent of the population has no health insurance.

The height of Americans reached a plateau in the 1960s. As a nation,  we have not grown taller but we also have not lost stature. Komlos says groups of people usually don’t lose height unless they’re in the midst of a famine or a war. “It has practically never occurred in peacetime,” he says.

Komlos would know; he was born in Budapest, Hungary, during World War II. And at 5-foot-7, he is shorter than his father, a fact he attributes to his family’s lack of food, as well as the stresses of life during wartime.

Reaching Maximum Potential

Economists are interested in these biological questions about nations because while height is a reflection of health and nutrition, those factors usually result from economic well-being.

The Netherlands: The World’s Tallest (And Healthiest) Country

Their men tower at an average height of 6-foot-1, and their women average 5-foot-8; those impressive figures confirm the Dutch as the tallest people in the world. So serious are the Dutch about height that there’s even a national association representing tall people. According to The New Yorker, the club has serious political clout.

John Komlos’ 2007 study in Social Science Quarterly offers several possible explanations for the good health and stature of the Dutch. One is the country’s “high-quality” medical system and social services, including a public health monitoring program that allows moms to get child nutrition guidance from a pediatrician. Also, the study notes that lower labor-force participation rates among Dutch women means more moms stay at home, possibly allowing them to better care for their young children.

This year, Commonwealth Fund ranked theNetherlands health system No. 1 among industrialized nations. While the Netherlands doesn’t have a government-run health system, it does require everyone to have insurance coverage. In the same survey, the U.S. came in last and had the highest yearly spending per person.

— Whitney Blair Wyckoff

Economic success and height even correlate to some degree on an individual level. Taller people tend to be smarter, and to earn more.

Andreas Schick, a graduate student at Ohio State University in Columbus, is trying to figure out why. He thinks it gets down to the fact that someone who is healthy and well-fed enough to grow tall — or to the individual’s maximum potential genetic height — is also someone who is able to grow a strong, capable brain.

“If you’ve reached your maximum height, that probably means you’ve reached your physical and mental development,” Schick says. “That helps you reach your maximum potential, be that intellectually or socially.”

But the fact that Americans aren’t getting taller means more and more children won’t have the chance to reach their maximum potential, Komlos says.

And that has ramifications for the future. “A population that is not taking care of their children and youth is going to be in difficulties in a generation or two,” he says.

At Howard University Hospital in Washington, D.C., two miles northwest of the White House, Rana says he sees children in difficulty every day. Many of his young patients suffer health problems from obesity — too many empty calories and fat. Others are not getting enough to eat.

“You would be shocked by how many kids go without food in this town,” he says. “What you have to do is go to clinics like ours and ask people: Did you have a meal today?”


From the blog Mark Daily’s Apple, a nice fitness and Diet based Blog HERE

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.


From the PNAS website HERE

Height, health, and development

  1. Angus Deaton 

Author Affiliations

  1. Woodrow Wilson School and Economics Department, 328 Wallace Hall, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544
  1. Edited by Richard A. Easterlin, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, and approved May 2, 2007 (received for review December 22, 2006)


Adult height is determined by genetic potential and by net nutrition, the balance between food intake and the demands on it, including the demands of disease, most importantly during early childhood. Historians have made effective use of recorded heights to indicate living standards, in both health and income, for periods where there are few other data. Understanding the determinants of height is also important for understanding health; taller people earn more on average, do better on cognitive tests, and live longer. This paper investigates the environmental determinants of height across 43 developing countries. Unlike in rich countries, where adult height is well predicted by mortality in infancy, there is no consistent relationship across and within countries between adult height on the one hand and childhood mortality or living conditions on the other. In particular, adult African women are taller than is warranted by their low incomes and high childhood mortality, not to mention their mothers’ educational level and reported nutrition. High childhood mortality in Africa is associated with taller adults, which suggests that mortality selection dominates scarring, the opposite of what is found in the rest of the world. The relationship between population heights and income is inconsistent and unreliable, as is the relationship between income and health more generally.


  • E-mail: deaton@princeton.edu
  • Author contributions: A.D. designed research, performed research, analyzed data, and wrote the paper.

  • The author declares no conflict of interest.

  • This article is a PNAS Direct Submission.


3 thoughts on “Height Is Indicator Of Fitness For Past And Primitive Ancestors

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  2. thomas Samaras

    Based on about 40 years of research, I disagree with many of the points made in the article. While there are mortality studies that show taller people have lower all-cause and cardiovascular disease mortality, I have not found any longevity studies to support these findings. In my opinion, these studies are confounded by socioeconomic status, body weight, catch-up growth of small birth weight infants, childhood illnesses and other factors. Evidence supporting the thesis that shorter, smaller people live longer are summarized below.

    1. Within a species, smaller individuals usually live longer; e.g.; dogs, rats, mice, horses, cows, and elephants.

    2. Based on 12 centenarian studies, one study reported he average height to be 5’8.5″. Th remaining studies (US, Okinawa, Sardinia, Hungary, N. Italy, etc.) indicated a range of 5′ to 5’5″ for their youthful heights.

    3. About 20 longevity studies found that shorter people lived longer; e.g., a study of 1.3 million Spanish men found that they lost .7 yr/ cm of increased height.

    4, The top 6 populations for maximum life expectancy are relatively short compared to the lower life expectancy of the tallest N. Western european populations, such as Scandinavians, Germans, and Dutch.

    5. Withn the US, age-adjusted all-cause and coronary mortality increased with increasing height by ethnic group. Asians had the lowest mortality. These findings covered 1985-1999 and involved about 18 million deaths.

    6. American males born around 1980 were 9% taller than women and had a 9% shorter life expectancy.

    7. A recent study in Sardinia found that shorter men lived longer. Salaris, Poulain and Samaras, 2011, Biodemography and Social Biology.

    8. A 2013 study on heart disease found many short populations with little to no coronary heart disease mortality. Article: Shorter height is related to lower cardiovascular disease risk—a narrative review. http://www.indianheartjournal.net/article/S0019-4832(12)00317-3/fulltext

    9. A study found that American males had 17 times the death rate from heart disease compared to shorter rural Chinese.

    For more information, see http://www.humanbodysize.com


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