Can Nutrition Impact Height?

Nutrition is a key factor in determining a person's height. Protein, minerals, vitamins A and D, and a healthy diet are all essential for growth and development. Malnutrition in childhood can lead to dietary deficiencies, which can reduce or delay growth and make children shorter than those with good nutrition. Eating lots of vegetables won't necessarily make you taller, but it can help you reach your maximum potential height.

By comparing the average height of adults in different populations, it is possible to determine the degree of variation in the exposures that affect the cumulative net nutrition of the cohorts, particularly during the first period of growth. This can offer an important window into understanding improvements in population health, nutrition, and development over time. The biggest gender differences occur in the tallest countries, suggesting that sexual dimorphism is more pronounced when malnutrition and childhood diseases are mitigated. Adult height is mainly established during the first period of growth in early childhood, when nutritional needs are greater than at any other time thereafter, and when infections, in particular diarrheal diseases, occur more frequently.

Good nutrition and general health during growth and development in childhood and adolescence can influence a person's height. A trial conducted in India showed that children born as part of a community intervention that offered nutritional supplements during pregnancy and early childhood were 14 mm larger than the control group and had a reduced risk of suffering from cardiovascular disease when they reached adolescence. There is strong evidence that adult height (and maternal height, in particular) is related to malnutrition, stunting and infant mortality. In order to understand the potential role of adult height in population health and development, initiatives such as food stamps for nutritious food for low-income families and healthy and free school meal programs should be implemented. This will help reveal both the usefulness of height in adults as a criterion for detecting biological deprivation, standard of living and nutritional deprivation, and the degree to which the causal factors that could underlie associations are susceptible to intervention.