You are growing like a weed!!!


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Sitting atop 8,556 acres of land, Penn State University Park has the tenth largest college campus in the United States. As students on this large campus, it is inevitable that we will occasionally have some long walks to class. Now I don't know about you, but on my long walks I like to keep myself occupied, and to do so I often analyze the people around me, and sometimes even compare those people to myself. In fact, just last Wednesday on my walk to geography class I began to take notice to the height of the people that I passed in relation to my own height. You see, I consider myself to be a tall person, and so would most of you. I stand six feet four inches tall, and am the tallest person in my family by about two inches. Coming from a relativity small high school I was always one of the taller people in my class, and definitely the tallest in my group of friends. However, I no longer feel so tall here at Penn State. As I was looking around the other day I began to notice many tall people, some that were taller than me, and plenty of others that were either my height or within one or two inches of me. This then got me thinking about my nephew Nathan, who is the son of my brother Jake (6'2") and his wife Diana (5'6"). Nathan is only 3 years old, but is already on track to surpass me as the tallest member of the family according to his growth charts. This in return sparked my imagination and got me thinking about my life in the future, and how tall my son will be. For instance what if my wife is at least (5'6") and we have a son... does this mean that he will one day surpass Nathan as the tallest member of the family? And what if every (6'2"+) man on the face of this earth procreates with a woman who is at least (5'6")... does this mean that all of their sons will be taller than (6'4") as well? And what factors are contributing to this ramped increase in height, are genetics alone responsible or is there something else? Well I'm not sure and this is why I pose these questions... so lets take a deeper look into the topic and find out!

According to Scientific American humans are getting taller, in fact "over the last 150 years the average height of people in industrialized nations has increased approximately four inches". When looking for an explanation for this paradox scientists first looked at evolution, now lets remember that in order for something to evolve there must be a physical and/or behavioral variation. In a study done in industrial England families were evaluated and children that were born into poorer families were on average shorter than children born into wealthier families. It was also shown that poorer families had larger numbers of children. Given those results the population should have gotten shorter, however that has not been the case. Height has increased across the board paying no attention to a person's socioeconomic standing. These results therefore rule out evolution and the process of natural selection. 

So if evolution is not responsible for this increase in height, then what is? Well it turns out that this increase in height has not been consistent throughout human existence, and studies show that there was no significant increase in height from the Stone Age up until about the 1800s. This leads many scientists to believe that the increase in height comes from advancements in nutrition. According to TIME Magazine our vitamin, mineral, and protein intake has increased significantly over the past 200 years causing the body to grow much more rapidly. On top of advancements in nutrition, we also have less disease today than we did 200 years ago. Overall these studies suggest, that the healthier we are the taller we should be. As nutrition and health continues to advance the human population should continue to get taller, this explains why we are generally taller than our parents, and why our kids will most likely be taller than us. Now don't get me wrong I'm not saying the more you eat the taller you will be, but what I am saying is that proper nutrition plays a big role in your height.

Nutrition is not the only thing that contributes to your height, it is predominantly determined by your genetics. According to The Global Post "Genetics accounts for around 60 to 80 percent of one's height potential, meaning that each one of your biological parents contributes to about 30 to 40 percent of your height." With this being said the remaining 20 to 40 percent of your height is then determined by your quality of health and nutrition intake.

The bottom line is that we are getting taller as human beings, and that your height is determined mainly by your genetics and also by your quality of nutrition. So to answer my question as to "whether or not my son will be taller than my nephew Nathan", the answer is not necessarily. It all depends on the percentages, and how much of the height gene my son will inherit from me rather than from my wife. My son's quality of nutrition will also play a factor. This also answers my question as to  "What if every (6'2"+) man on the face of this earth procreates with a woman who is at least (5'6")... does this mean that all of their sons will be taller than (6'4") as well?" The answer is also not necessarily; it will depend on what percentage of the height gene the child receives from both the mother and the father, on top of the child's quality of nutrition. Overall chances are that your child will be taller than you, however nothing is guaranteed. So the next time someone tells you that "you are growing like a weed" you'll be able to explain to them why. 

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4 Comments

This article really caught my eye because I stand at a wopping 4'9.25". I am 18 years old and haven't grown since 6th grade...so I thought. I actually just went to the health center last week and they told me my height is now 4'10.5". I was shocked and sooo happy. At every physical for the past 6 years there's been no increase in my height, sadly. :( In 7th grade I had testing done on my height at Children's Hospital. Unforunately, the doctor told me that since I hit puberty at such a young age, 8 years old, I was going to be done growing around 12-13 years old. I had the testing done when i was 13. He said my hormone/features were those that should be projected by a 15 year old girl. Apparently, femals hit puberty, get their menstrual cycle 2 years later, and then grow for another two years and that's it. So I have kind of just accepted the whole "munchkin" life for the past several years. But at the doctors this past week the nurse told me that she grew just about 3 inches when she graduated high school, and gone to college. She explained that she had always done gymnastics as a kid. That was quite ironic because I have done cheerleading, gymnastics and other sports throughout my whole life. Therfore, I decided to research whether or not gymnastics stunts your growth...and accoring to Web Md it does! http://www.shortsupport.org/News/0022.html

Not only does this make sense...but Jonathon's point about eating well makes sense. I did not try my first burger until this summer! Not only had I never eaten a burger, but I rarely eat ham, turkey or chicken, and have never had steak or ribs. So it's safe to say my body is 100% lacking protein. My short trait is likely to be a combination of lack of nutrition and physical activities as a kid and the fact that my growth plates apparently "closed" at 13 years old.

However, in terms of genetics...my family is completely out of wack! My mother's father was 6 feet and my grandma is not even 5 feet. Their three children are 6'6" (uncle), 5'8" (aunt) and my mom whose 5 feet. My dad is only about 5'10". My mom always claims that her sister and brother stole about 6 inches of her height. My brothers are 5'9" and 5'5" and then theres me: 4'10.5". It seems as if it's really a mixed bag when one partner is tall and one is very short. I'm assuming this will happen to me when I have a family. I don't agree with Jonathon that a woman 5'6" and a man who is 6'2" will yield a son over 6'4". I feel as though it totally depends on the punnet square and which genes are recessive and which aren't. My boyfriend now is 6'4", supposed to be 6'6". If I had children with him...I do not feel as though there's an average projective height that our child should "atleast be." Maybe the fact that I have a little height (running in my family-with my grandpa, uncles and cousins), and depending on my husband's size...i will by chance get a tall child. Afterall, Andrew says anything is due to chance! :)

This also caught my eye seeing as how I am 5', but unlike the girl above me I never understood why. I never hit my "growing age" any earlier than anyone else and I've always been probably the healthiest in my family. The weirdest thing of all? My ENTIRE family is tall, on both sides. My dad is 6'1", mom 5'5", brothers at 6'3" and 6'1" and my shortest cousin (that isn't super young) is a girl in ninth grade already at 5'6". I am the absolute shortest in my family, but also the only one. I don't know if someone is playing some joke on me, but I haven't grown since seventh grade and I'm pretty sure I'm done for good. Here's a link I found that talks about how there is more than one gene that contributes to height (as far as they know) and why there are so many various heights in people.

http://genetics.thetech.org/original_news/news60

I think that there are so many uncontrolled factors that go into making a persons genetic makeup it is nearly impossible to accurately predicting a persons height. My whole life everyone thought I was going to grow up and be shorter because my mom and dad were both considered to be short. Coming from a mom who is 5'6" and a dad who is 5'8" my family was shocked to see me grow up to be 6'0" tall. I'm taller than nearly everyone in my family on both sides, but my mom's father was exceptionally tall, standing at 6'4". My older brother, assuming at 26 years old he has stopped growing, is only 5'10" so is it safe to say I was handed down my grandfather's gene and my brother wasn't? I don't think my brother received a significant amount of less nutrients in our life time than me, so what could it have been?

The fact that you are 6'0" and your older brother is only 5'10" is not that surprising to me. I have the same situation as mentioned in the blog, my brother is 6'2" and I am 6'4". Something that could explain this phenomenon would be that we received a greater percentage of the height gene than our older brothers did, therefore making us taller. Whether that gene came from your mother's or your father's side is irrelevant, that fact of the matter is that you received a greater percentage of the height gene than your brother. To answer your question about your brother and yourself receiving equal nourishment, this would cancel out considering that the both of you were nourished the same, leaving the height variation down to genetics. Nutrition may however explain why both of you are taller than your father.

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