South Korean women aren’t just living longer, as earlier reported, they are also growing taller, according to science.
A scientific study in human height has revealed that from 1896 to 1996, female South Korean adults have shown a trend of a spike in average growth, reports NPR.
The height jump, an incredible 8 inches in growth in the past century, is the biggest seen in the world. For the males, the biggest gainers were Iranians, who have gained 6.5 inches in the same period.
Americans, by comparison, are beginning to lag behind. A hundred years ago, the third tallest men and fourth tallest women in the world were from the U.S. Both genders have now fallen, ranking around 37th for men and 42nd place for women.
The findings were detailed in the research titled “A century of trends in adult human height”, which was published last year in the journal “eLife”. The study looked at how heights around the world have changed over the period.
The study has revealed that heights in the U.S. have stagnated, and at certain periods, showed signs of decline.
“There was a time when the U.S. was the land of plenty,” research lead Majid Ezzati from Imperial College London stated. “But increasingly over time, the quality of nutrition has worsened.”
“In some sense, you have a large part of the population who are not getting quality food,” Ezzati pointed out. “That drags down the whole place.”
Ezzati and almost 800 scientists studied 1,500 surveys to sort out data for the measured heights that represent 18.6 million people in 200 countries.
The exceptional growth is not unique in South Korea alone. In fact, the scientists found that current eighteen-year-olds in Japan and China are also much taller today than a hundred ago. While Japan has seen a slow decline recently, China and South Korea have both continued to gain height.
Comparatively, Africans and other nationalities are found to be shrinking after the colonial era has ended.
“You have countries that suddenly cut their entire health care budgets and agricultural [budgets] by large amounts,” Ezzati says. “Those who were affected the most were the poorest.”
According to the research team, a nation’s average height is a good indicator of the overall health of a population. Genes may play a huge part, but health and nutrition also affect how tall a person can grow.
“And there’s increasingly good evidence that people who are taller on average tend to live longer,” Ezzati says. “A big part of that is due to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease [for taller men and women].”
Overall, the current tallest were found to be Dutch men and Latvian women, with the average Dutchman at 183cm (6ft) tall, while the average Latvian woman reaches 170cm (5ft 7in). The world’s smallest men are found in East Timor (160cm; 5ft 3in) while the smallest women are in Guatemala at 150cm (4ft 11in).