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Why are People Getting Taller?

The average human being has been growing taller than ever before, especially through the last 150 years or so. Scientists have indicated that man has upped his average height and is now taller than he was in 1850 by as many as 10 centimetres!

Perhaps the best way to establish if this is true is to post sentry in a Victorian era doorway or even an old American home in Boston. You’ll find that the doorway is pretty low and an averagely tall person today will have to bend before entering. In the past, this door was actually high enough for everyone including the tall people then!

Let’s kick-start this journey with a roundup of some great names that are famous for being the tallest in the world today.

Sultan Kosen has sustained his name in the Guinness Book of World Records as the tallest man on the entire planet earth. He stands at 8 feet 3 inches high.

Zhang Juncai at 7 feet 11.3 inches and Suparwono at 7 feet 11 inches high rank as the second and third tallest men in the world, respectively.

Standing at 7 feet 10.1 inches high, Alexander Siozenko is the world’s fourth tallest person while Bao Xishun is number five, at 7 feet 9.5 inches tall. Bao’s height presents a perfect case of magical growth because it was not until the age of 16 that he sprouted like a shooting star head over shoulders above everyone else. In fact there is a joke doing rounds that Bao grew overnight!

Sultan Kosen
Sultan Kosen

So, why are people getting taller?

Here are some exciting research findings:

Evolution: Evolution, according to Charles Darwin, was meant to explain why species evolve by natural selection and survival for the fittest. Interestingly studies show that evolution, which favors strong genes in producing what you may call ‘fit people’ or basically tall people, is not the basis of the current trend where people are increasingly becoming much taller.

Another fact that overrules evolution as a possible explanation is that genes pass from father to child with all traits. For instance, if Shaquille O’Neal has a child, by evolutionary standards that child is likely to inherit the tall physique of the dad. Similarly, if a midget marries another midget, their child will be quite short

Only that this is not the outcome at all. Short people do sire tall people and the other way round. Magic Johnson would not be as tall as he was in his sporting heyday if we were to believe that evolution follows a strict trend where short people continue to pass their genes to their descendants and tall people pass their ‘tallness’ genes. If this were so, then the world would almost be an equal division between short and tall people.

If evolution is out of the question, what then makes a man outgrow his old desert friend, the camel?

It is fact that Dromedary camels are tall animals but they average between 5.9 to 6.6 feet high. The common camel is almost the same height as a man of average height at 5.2 to 5.6 feet. Unlike man, they have not grown taller over the centuries.

All this points to an intelligent explanation of man getting taller and taller as years pass by. What can this be? Here are some possibilities;

Better Nutrition

According to archaeologists, skeletons of humans of up to 1880 were always the same in height. However, about late 19th century (this was when modern agriculture, radio and steam power were the in-thing), skeletons began to show growth by a few inches. This was the period of Industrial Revolution when families were able to feed better.

With good childhood nutrition, a boy could shoot like a star especially soon after puberty. Proper nutrition acts as a catalyst to the growth hormone. It is no wonder then that the worlds’ fifth tallest man, Bao Xishun, suddenly grew extremely tall soon after he was 16 years old. His nutrition must have improved at around this age.

If you are familiar with Pip, Tiny Tim and Oliver Twist then you will agree that these Dickensian characters lived during the famished years of mid-19th century. It is only proper that their author created them short, dressing them in adult coats that dwarfed their small physiques.

Malnourished kids are more likely to experience dimunitive bodies because bones do not develop normally. You can take the economical conditions of two Far-east countries, North and South Korea. In the north, the population is poor and mainly short while the southern population is well off and tall. See the contrast?

Studies focusing on World War I & II reveal that both soldiers and civilians experienced extreme hunger. It is no surprise then that children who were born into the war grew up to be short. Presently, Germans, who were most affected by the war, are quite tall. Go back to Germany and look at football stars like defender Per Mertesacker, at 6 ft 6 inches tall and you will believe this proposition

Americans on the other hand present stark contrasts. From 1776 after the Revolutionary War, to 1861 at the start of the Civil War, Americans were well fed. Soon after the end of the Civil War (1865) to now, Americans have stood out as the most developed population in the world. They went on to grow tall even during the two world wars because their civilian populations stayed put at home. When Europe was soul-searching for food shipments, your American boy was catching fish in Missouri or chasing game in the Rockies.

The Rock (6ft5) next to Sun Ming Ming (7ft9 of China)
The Rock (6ft5) next to Sun Ming Ming (7ft9 of China)















Though they never taught it in biology class, humans have the HMGA2 gene which is responsible for height. Studies at Harvard and Oxford show that soon after fertilization, fetuses inherit this gene from both mother and father. A variation of this gene can improve the height of a toddler by a few inches and if there are multiple inherited variations, the child will shoot up awesomely.

Exercise and activity

Good exercise and activity can also explain why your teenager seems to have suddenly grown wings overnight to stand shoulder to shoulder with the dad. He is probably visiting the gym, walks to and from school a lot, skips boarding the bus home and runs all the way, and is actually very active when at home as well as in school. As Sports Medicine recently revealed, physical activity has made modern man dwarf his inactive ancestor.

This is because people now enjoy better food, hit the gym often and engage in other fitness activities that help to combat lifestyle illnesses like diabetes and obesity. Does this perhaps explain why the turtle remains grounded because it never moves or wriggles out of its shell?


Tall Men in Fashion and Culture

Why does a weaver bird try all angles to build a nest? The answer is best given in form of a question. Why do tall men try every means to fit into short clothing?

Like a weaver bird building on tall branches, tall men have to try something that can fit because designers have traditionally made clothes for average height people (5ft 2 inches to 5 ft 8 inches). This leaves a tall person at a pretty fix on what to try in fashion.

Since time immemorial, man has learned to play his game by the wants of the majority. Sorry enough, the majority in the world are average height and clothing stalls have no alternative but make most of their clothes for the 5’6 tall persons out there. This often leaves the tall man with the same choice as an ant trying to raise a molehill out of the ground after an increase in numbers underground.

Plus2Clothing is eliminating this challenge by making it easy for tall people to find fitting tall clothing such as tall t shirts that are perfectly tailored for the tall person. If funky is the keyword for your style, get in a jig in any of the tall tees and hoods that are made specifically extra large for the tall man. If XXL isn’t your style, there is a slim but tall fashion in both pants and shirt.

Are human beings likely to grow any taller in the coming decades?

Cambridge University researchers have put a cap on the likelihood of man growing taller anymore. Why?

Because the human growth gene that is secreted by the pituitary gland also has a limit up to which it can enhance growth. Owing to improved nutrition over the last one and a half centuries, the heyday of man’s tallness has finally grounded. In other words, you will continue seeing Tom, Dick and Harry look as tall as they come, but they will not by any chance crash the world record: not unless they pass by the eye of a needle or mutate.

However, the significance of height will continue to rear its head in society. In fashion stores, you will find that tall men will still continue having pains selecting their best gear. On the street, however, the tall man will still stand out. In certain communities, the tall figure will continue serving as an elder though in modern societies, all men, tall or short are equal.

Though, society is not likely to change in any way whether people grow tall or not. Now as in the past, the rolling mill of progress will move on irrespective of whether there are tall, average-height or short people. In the workplace as in schools, in shops and on the streets, people are equal, despite differences in height.

However, on one score the nature of height will change the world. There will be differentiation in products and technology specifically for people of rare height. Perhaps there will be more stores like gearing their services towards only the 6-foot man. In short, as modern comforts improve, the man who stands shoulders above others will equally find comfort in products and utilities.

Here is a great video, ‘Are people getting taller’

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