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Why Americans Are No Longer the Tallest People in the World

Saturday, June 14, 2008 by: Heidi Stevenson
Tags: health trends, health news, Natural News

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(NewsTarget) Average height provides one of the best indications of a population's overall health. Until the last few years, U.S. citizens were the world's tallest and enjoyed better health than the people of any other nation. Things have changed, though. Now, western Europeans' height exceeds that of Americans, and the difference is growing larger.

If there's any question about the connection between height and health, consider that longevity has also decreased during the same time that height has dropped. References vary, but the usually-reported figure is that the United States is between 28 and 38 in the world for life expectancy, behind nearly all western European nations.

Having spent most of his professional life poring through historical records of height, Professor John Komlos of Germany's University of Munich has become known as the pope of anthropometric - measurement of humans -- studies. Komlos, his colleagues, and graduate students consider historical records of soldiers to be the mother lode for information about height. These records tend to be complete, are accurate about men's civil status, and, of course, provide objective height measurements.

Over the last 1,200 years, a graph of the height of European men is shaped like a wide U. Charlemagne stood about six feet tall and his soldiers' heights averaged nearly the same. A thousand years later, during the French Revolution, the average male height was a mere five feet.

What can account for such a change? During the time when Europeans were losing height, the most obvious change in their lives was the development of cities and the move away from an egalitarian agricultural life. A very few, mostly the wealthy, were well-fed. The feudal system took most of the food away from serf farmers, giving it to the lords in taxes.

After the French Revolution, the average person became wealthier. Access to adequate food became more commonplace. Thus, people grew taller. Today, Europeans are the tallest in the world.

The tallest of all are the Dutch. In The Netherlands, the average man is 6' 1". Compare that to the average American man at 5' 9-1/2" today.

Americans have historically enjoyed an abundance of good food. The land itself provided exceptionally well. Whether wealthy or poor, nearly everyone ate well. As Europeans have grown taller, their lifespans have lengthened, too. American's lifespans have lost ground compared to the Europeans.

There are many ideas on why Americans are relatively shorter, but the only one that holds up to scrutiny is diet. Historically, the quality of diet has been associated with the economic well-being of a culture. That has not changed, though there is one distinct difference today -- the type of food. Let's take a look at suggestions for why the change in height.


Wealth is often offered as a reason for increased height. Historically, the connection has been quite clear. However, it's obvious that no one grows taller from carrying a wad of money in his pocket.

What is it about wealth that has made the difference between being tall and short? In the past, the very wealthy have always tended to be significantly taller than the poor. Towards the end of the 18th century, the difference in height between wealthy and poor young men was nearly nine inches.


Especially now, with the unexamined presumption that modern healthcare is the reason for longer lives, healthcare is often automatically listed as a reason for taller stature. Does this hold up under examination? The fact is that nothing of substance is ever identified to show any connection between the modern medical system and health, let alone height. This, though, doesn't slow down the major news reports that connect healthcare with height. In a recent BBC News report on this issue, the bulk of the article discusses healthcare, with talk about pre- and post-natal care and the availability of healthcare to most people in Europe. Nowhere, though, is this assumption examined.

Let's scrutinize it using one of the so-called successes that the healthcare system routinely trots out -- the implementation of mass vaccination. If it has produced better health, then there should be a correlation between greater height and increased vaccinations. As documented in "Childhood Vaccinations Hoax" (https://www.naturalnews.com/022617.html), the reality is far different from the medical system's claims. There has been almost no benefit from childhood vaccinations during the latter half of the twentieth century.

If there was a positive connection between healthcare and height, then wouldn't there be an increase in height to match the greatest success story of the allopathic medical world? Reality, though, doesn't match the fiction. In fact, the latter half of the twentieth century was a time of decreased height among Americans. During the same time, here has been a massive buildup in vaccinations, starting in the 1940s and accelerating during the '60s.

Genetics and Immigration

Genetics and immigration are often cited as the reason behind the relative shrinkage of Americans. With only a small number of exceptions, this theory is flawed.

The implication is that native-born Americans have maintained their height, but immigrants, who often are shorter, are skewing the records. On examination, though, this does not hold up. First, one needs to note that Americans are already a land of people from other countries. Thus, their historically greater height must be the result of something that has happened since their ancestors arrived from then-short Europeans, Africans, and Asians.

During the latter half of the twentieth century, both Europe and America have been home to huge influxes of immigration. The U.S. has gotten more people from South America. True, these people are generally shorter. However, western Europe has had extremely heavy immigration from lands with shorter people, including Asia, Africa, and eastern Europe. In spite of this, western Europeans have grown taller.

Another point countering the argument that Americans have grown shorter because of immigration is that, with only a few exceptions, such as the Pygmies of Africa, most people seem to reach similar heights when conditions are similar. That can be demonstrated by looking at third generation people who have immigrated from all over the world. People whose grandparents came from South America are as tall as those whose grandparents arrived on boats from Europe.

The Maya are one of the two main ethnic groups of Guatemala. They were thought to be genetically short and were called the "Pygmies of Central America". They were subjugated by the ruling Ladinos. In the 1970s, the average Mayan man was only 5' 2" and the average woman only 4' 8". By the mid-eighties, many Mayans had escaped from their poverty to the U.S. The average U.S. Mayan was four inches taller than the average Guatemalan Mayan by 2000.

Food and Diet

In the United States, food has been available in abundance to most people. That is why Americans were the world's tallest people for most of 200 years, until the mid-twentieth century.

What happened in the latter half of the twentieth century? There's another clue: Americans not only ceased to gain height, they also got fatter. A lot fatter. It's well documented that this happened because of diet. The advent of junk food and junk diets has led to an American health disaster.

Thus, while Americans have not only had adequate food, they've had an abundance of it - but in the last 50 years, a large portion of it has been calories without substance.

The American diet is atrocious, leading to deteriorating health. As a result of diminished health, Americans are less able to function well. Intelligence is affected, and testing has documented poorer mental capacity, not just poorer performance in schools. Chronic diseases, such as arthritis, cancer, diabetes, and asthma have become rampant.

Why the American Diet is So Poor

The real question is why Americans eat so badly. Look no further than the USDA, the arbiter of the American diet, and its Food Pyramid to understand the problem. It emphasizes foods that are relatively calorie-rich and nutrition-poor. The recommendation for the ideal diet is mostly grains. Fruits and vegetables are second, dairy products and proteins are third, and fats are treated as something to avoid.

Nothing could be further from the truth. If you want a diet that leads to diabetes, the USDA's food pyramid is an excellent guide. It even suggests eating "fortified" breads, rather than suggesting whole grains that have never been adulterated. People who follow this diet are doomed to live in hunger. The body demands adequate nutrition. When it doesn't get it -- and the USDA's diet assures that it won't -- then it will demand more food.

It gets worse, though. For the sake of convenience, because people's lives are so filled with the stuff of modern living, and because it's pushed so heavily, people have turned to even worse junk food. People are stuffing themselves with sugar, processed grains, and processed petroleum, rather than eating real food. Their bodies go into starvation mode, demanding more and more food as they try to get the real nutrition they require.

Who Benefits from the American Diet?

Ultimately, the question must be asked: Why would people eat such bad food? The answer is found by identifying who benefits from the American diet, since it obviously isn't the American people. Dr. Barry Sears wrote, "...asking the USDA to develop the Food Pyramid was like asking the fox to guard the hen house." The primary agribusinesses in the United States are corn and wheat. These grain lobbies are among the most powerful in the government. As a result, the USDA dances to whatever tune they play.

When it came to putting the Food Pyramid together, the needs and desires of grain-based agribusiness had more to do with it than people's dietary needs. There is no good science behind it. As Dr. Walter Willett of the Harvard School of Public Health and Medicine Professor at Harvard is quote in The Anti-Inflammation Zone, "The USDA Pyramid is wrong. It was built on shaky scientific ground... the USDA Pyramid offers wishy-washy, scientifically unfounded advice... nor has it ever been tested to see if it really works."

So, the American people have been propagandized from earliest childhood into eating a diet that is virtually guaranteed to make them fat and not get the nutrition needed to reach their full height or their full potential. The well-being of Americans was sacrificed for the profits of a few agribusiness corporations. No wonder Americans are no longer the world's tallest people!


"Underperformance in affluence: the remarkable relative decline in American heights in the second half of the 20th-century", Munich Economics, by John Komlos and Benjamin E. Lauderdale, (http://epub.ub.uni-muenchen.de/1241/1/underp...)

"Land of the Giants: Dutch Tower over Americans", by Jim Sciutto, ABC News, (http://abcnews.go.com/print?id=2998245)

"On English Pygmies and Giants: the Physical Stature of English Youth in the late-18th and early-19th Centuries", by John Komlos, Munich Economics, (http://epub.ub.uni-muenchen.de/573/1/childre...)

"European men outstrip Americans", BBC News, (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/3625031.st...)

The Anti-Inflammation Zone, by Dr. Barry Sears, pub. 2005 by Harper Collins

About the author

* Heidi Stevenson, BSc, DIHom, FBIH
* Fellow, British Institute of Homeopathy
* Gaia Health (http://www.gaia-health.com)
* The author is a homeopath who became concerned with medically-induced harm as a result of her own experiences and those of family members. She says that allopathic medicine is the arena that best describes the motto, "Buyer beware."
* Heidi Stevenson provides information about medically-induced disease and disability, along with incisive well-researched articles on major issues in the modern world, so members of the public can protect themselves.
She can be reached through her website: www.gaia-health.com

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