The Connection Between The Short Stature Of The Vietnamese and Their Diet

I might be stepping out of line with this post but a recent video I saw on Youtube made me wonder whether a certain tribe or ethnic group’s diet and eating habits might have a much larger influence to the height of a certain ethnicity.

I refer to the trip Gordon Ramsey takes to Vietnam in one of his Great Escape episodes. In the last month, I have started to enjoy many cooking channels, and Gordon is a very colorful, interesting character to follow. I don’t have a TV so I don’t know what is really popular on TV these days. It seems that this series of food traveling show has been around since 2010, and only now have I heard of it.

What really struck me was that in the episode where Gordon visits the country of Vietnam, two different people both talk about the lack of calcium in their diet. First, it was Mrs. Vi Ching and 2nd was the guy who Gordon was eating snake hearts with.

It is interesting that this Mrs. Vi Ching, who supposedly owns 4 of the most famous and well touted restaurants in all of Ho Chi Minh City and goes shopping twice a day for freshness made the offhanded comment that “We have no dairy, so we eat the bone for calcium”. Then when Gordon is out with a couple of the vietnamese men, the restaurant chef would fry up the backbone of the snake they ordered which was made into at least 4-5 different dishes. It was supposed to give them more calcium.

Refer to the video below…

So it seems that for the people in Vietnam who really focus on the food, they have a unique concern with Calcium and getting enough of it. Do they somehow realize that their diet intrinsically lacks the calcium (as well as the Vitamin D, K2, Iron, Amino Acids) that is needed to grow “normal”? Or maybe at least by American standards

In my personal life and my history of going to the various Vietnamese Restaurants, I do sort of see the connection. The Vietnamese do eat a lot of strange animals and delicacies, like frogs and snakes, which had a lot of lean, dark, and flavorful meat. The Vietnamese really care about Flavor and Texture, since the 2nd guy also made the comment that the Vietnamese prefer to eat food that has a little bit of chew to them. They focus on taste, but not utility and function. They eat what tastes good, but forget to eat what might be actually good for them and their bodies. They don’t seem to have that critical factor of dairy. Dairy is missing in their diet.

They might be eating cow and beef, but those are used sparingly. They eat shrimp, but there is little excess meat in their diet. The Vietnamese seem to traditionally like to eat out a lot, at the local Hole In the Wall, which are very cheap. That means that the food might not have the neccesary composition (vitamins & minerals) to give them to grow to their maximum potential. I mean, how nutritious can a Flying Bat or Snake be in terms of real nutrition?

So then, why is it that the Vietnamese are not consuming much dairy products? 

I don’t know. Maybe the forests of Vietnams have not been cleared out to make room for cows to graze in, unlike say the USA or Canada, which has a lot of available land. I don’t know what is the average native vietnamese person’s diet, and how much milk they were drinking when they were children who were still growing.

So some might ask me, does that mean that eating a lot of dairy like milk and cheese with higher than average calcium levels would make themselves taller? My previous research into this suggested that there is a positive correlation but the correlation is very weak. Even the 1-2 studies which support that positive correlation didn’t explicitly state out right that there was a positive correlation, but implied it.

Of course, I could , playing my own Devil’s Advocate, show that the Mongolians, who have no source of seafood, vegetables, or fruits, and live off of a diet of just meat (mainly sheep and goat) and dozens of derivatives of dairy products don’t seem to be shooting up like redwoods. I don’t hear about too many 7 foot tall Mongolians that are trying to get into the NBA.

Most people who analyze the factors which make up an individual’s height says that genetics has around a 60-80% effect on a person’s height. Traditionally, the idea proposed by geneticists is that if you are born to short parents or into what has been considered a short “ethnicity”, then there is nothing you can do about it especially in terms with changing one’s diet.

However, there has been multiple times in the last half decade where I have seen cultural trends which suggest that maybe diet and environment may play a much bigger role than believed.

I remember one time in a shopping center and two super tall females walked by me. Both of them were carrying 1 gallons of milk in each of their hands. When I commented them on their purchases of so much milk, one of the girls commented that where she is from, their diet strongly emphasizes dairy problems. I would found out after asking where she was from that she and the other girl were from an unknown city in Germany. Of course, I know from experience that not all full blooded German ethnic girls are above average in height or consume a lot of milk. It might have been just one unique case.

What I can’t write off is this phenomena seen in Denmark, the Netherlands and other Northern European nations where the standard of living is so good. We know from observation that it seems that “Asian” people are stereotupically shorter than say the “Average White American”. However, many sociologists point out that the difference in height is due to them being usually 1st generational immigrants. When these immigrants have children in their new country, with a better diet and healthcare system, the 2nd generational kids turn out to be much taller than them.

That is the phenomena seen in the Netherlands and Denmark, when babies are born of immigrant parents from say Turkey, Iraq, Egypt, Iran, etc end up MUCH taller than what was expected of them by their parents, who might be a little over 5 feet tall. The change in stature by just 1 single generation is staggering! . I don’t disagree that compared to the 100% in blood Ethnic Dutch, the Turkish Immigrants or say a Filipino immigrant might be much shorter on average. What happens almost always is that the immigrant’s kids turn out to be much taller. The height difference is reduced dramatically.

Sure, there is probably not going to be a way to test this out, with a set of identical twins, one raised in native Turkey or Iran, and the other twin living in Amsterdam, thus a control and the subject. However, I believe that most sociologist would agree with me that it SEEMS LIKE that if you grow up in a different country, your expected adult height changes, often by a lot, and even by a few standard deviations.

That would mean that one’s environment and most definitely the local food has a major influence on the kids’s development.

In fact, there is a phenomena seen in the East Asian community where immigrants who came to the Western countries (USA, Canada, Australia) later in life, say in their 20s almost could not get fat or overweight even if they wanted to and ate a lot, but their 2nd generation Asian Canadian (or Asian American) counterpart found themselves struggling with their weight their whole adult lives. At some point in the phase where the teenager turns into an adult, the body’s metabolism changes and the two groups of people who have the same ethnicity starts to diverge in their body shape, both in height and weight.

It seems like the diet that one eats when one is very young and in development dictates one’s adult metabolism level. I suspect that it has to do with the raising of the IGF-1 level in one’s system, and how well one’s body can produce and use insulin.

On average, I would say that above average in height adults in the USA are more likely to be overweight than average in height people and short people. That means that height and weight are positively correlated, pushing one’s BMI steadily higher over time, (since the factor of height is squared and divided over in the BMI Calculation)

What does this all mean?

It seems that the old stereotype of Asians being short may be explained much more by their traditional diet than previously believed. Based on this old World Health Organization report (Click Here for the PDF), it was shown that the growth pattern was almost exactly the same for all tribes and ethnic groups from around the world. That would suggest that if all ethnic tribes were places in the same environment with the same level of healthcare and had the same diet and eating habits, on average, they would have all the same adult height, accounting for the initial length and weight of the person when they were first born. (Multiple studies showed that people who are born big, grow to be bigger, since they start out initially with much more mass, aka many more chondrocytes which had condensated in their embryological development.)

Maybe the Vietnamese are shorter than average because of the lack of dairy products in their diet. I do believe that diet plays a much bigger role than I had thought a year ago. I did show once that eating the shells from a lot of Shellfish, or Shrimp, or Crayfish (Mini Lobsters), or any type of sea life based creature with a keratin/nail like exoskeleton¬†might help in one’s growth pattern. It turns out that Glucosamine Sulphate, which was one of the biggest discoveries and posts on this website (Refer to that viral post here), is derived from the shells of shrimp and shellfish. Yes, technically Glucosamine Sulphate is a compound that is endogenously produced in the human body, but consuming it helps with making many joints in the body increase in thickness and volume, if ever so slightly.

If I was to say one thing about this point, it is that maybe a large factor for the differences in height in the various “races” and ethnic groups is due to their food choices, particularly the lack of dairy products when they were young.

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