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The Link Between Height and Longevity Explored

Posted Apr 30 2011 10:46pm 2 Comments
Posted on 2011-04-28 06:00:00 in Child Health | Diet | Longevity | Nutrition |

Research conducted over the past 30 years confirms that there is a clear link between height and longevity. By exploring the links between nutrition and economic development in Europe and North America since the early-1700s, the researchers linked the changing size, shape and capability of the human body to economic and demographic change.   Co-authors Roderick Floud (Gresham College, United Kingdom), Robert W. Fogel (University of Chicago, Illinois USA), Bernard Harris (University of Southampton, United Kingdom), and Sok Chul Hong (Sogang University, Korea),  found that 200 years ago there were substantial differences in height between working-class and upper-class people. In the 1780s, the average height of a 14-year-old working-class child was 1.3m, while an upper class child was "significantly taller" at 1.55m. Today however, as health services, nutrition, sanitation and education have become universal, upper-class children have continued to grow taller, but at a slower rate than working-class children. The difference between the upper- and working-class adults has narrowed to less than 0.06m. Dr. Harris comments that: "Our work shows that there have been dramatic changes in child health (as reflected in achieved adult height) over the last 100 years, and other researchers have highlighted the existence of close links between improvements in child health and health in later life. These changes have profound implications for developments in later-life health, longevity and economic performance over the coming century.  The investments we make in the health of today's children can play a pivotal role in determining the economic wellbeing of future generations."

Roderick Floud, Robert W. Fogel, Bernard Harris, and Sok Chul Hong.  “The Changing Body: Health, Nutrition, and Human Development in the Western World since 1700.”  Cambridge University Press, March 2011.l


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Comments (2)
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A new study of Sardinian men finds shorter height is related to greater longevity.  

 

 

This new study supports over 12  previous studies that have found that shorter height promotes greater longevity.  Sardinia is known as a blue zone, which means it has a remarkably high percentage of long-lived people. 

 

Sardinians are shorter than people in the rest of Europe and tend to live longer. Within Sardinia, there is a group of 14 municipalities that exhibit higher longevity compared to the rest of the island. In addition, as height declines among these municipalities, longevity increases with the shortest municipaliity, Villagrande Strisaili, having the greatest longevity. Professor Poulain, University of  Louvain (Belgium) and Dr. Salaris, University of Cagliari (Italy), led a study to determine whether there was a relationship between height and longevity among almost 500 males born between 1866 and 1915. Salaris and Poulain  found that shorter men lived about 2 years longer than taller men. The results of the study were published in the journal, Biodemography and Social Biology (4/26/12): Doi:10.1080/19485565.2012.666118

 

This Sardinian study is consistent with a study conducted in Spain by Dr. Holzenberger. This study tracked 1.3 million men through a 70-year period and found that longevity increased with reduced height. Similar results were found in an Ohio study by Professor Dennis Miller based on about 1700 men and women. Samaras, a longevity researcher, found similar results based on baseball  players, California veterans, football players, basketball players and famous people. Professor Krakauer also found that shorter elderly Swedish men and women live longer. A recent review by Professor Bartke appeared in Gerontology which supports these findings as well: DOI: 10.1159/000335166

 

The researchers of this study noted that women are shorter than men and live longer in virtually all populations. However, Professor Miller found that when he compared men and women of the same height, their longevity was about the same. Contrary to what was expected, Poulain and Salaris found that men live as long as women in Villagrande.

 

A number of scientists have observed that within a species, the smaller individual tends to live longer than the bigger one. This is illustrated by smaller dogs who live longer than medium and large size dogs. Smaller mice, rats, ponies and monkeys generally live longer as well. The Asian elephant also lives longer than the larger African elephant.

 

The study also provides a number of biological mechanisms that explain why smaller bodies tend to live longer. These include lower DNA damage, greater cell replacement potential, higher heart pumping efficiency, decreased C-reactive protein and higher sex hormone binding globulin.

 

Salaris and Poulain reported that height is only one factor in how long anyone will live. It probably constitutes less than 10% of anyone’s longevity profile. Regardless of height, anyone can extend his or her longevity by healthful nutrition, low body weight, exercise, good medical care, a positive and happy spirit, and good social relations. Therefore, tall people have the potenial to reach 100 years under the right conditions. 

 

During the last 20 years, Reventropy Associates has been involved in evaluating the ramifications of body size and height on longevity and other factors in human society. The contributors to the Sardinia study have published over 40 peer reviewed papers and books on human body size and its relation to longevity, resource consumption, and long-term human survival.

 

Contact: Thomas T. Samaras, Director, Reventropy Associates. email: Samarastt@aol.com, tel: 858 576 9283, 11487 Madera Rosa Way, San Diego, Ca. 92124; website: http://www.humanbodysize.com

Based on 37 years of research on human height and its relation to longevity and survival, I disagree that promotion of bigger human size reflects improved health. In fact a report by the World Cancer Research Fund found that Western chronic diseases have increased during the industrial revolution along with increasing height and weight. Yes, our life expectancy has increased substantially over this period, but it is due to reduced infant, maternal, childhood and elderly death rates due to improved sanitation, living conditions and medical developments. Since 1900, our work week has been reduced from 60 to 40 hours a week and physically hard work has declined due to increased mechanization. This trend has also improved our life expectancy.

The John Hopkins Health Letter recently reported that 50% of Americans 65 and older take 5 or more medications a day. In addition, 25% take 10 to 20 medications per day. The widespread need for medications and our obesity epidemic, I don't see how this reflects good health as mentioned by Floud, etc. In addition, Professor Popkin, an expert in global nutrition, reports that the food system developed over the last 150 years has been devastating to our health.

The economists use statistics to defend their position that taller people are healthier, but ignore empirical biological research that finds smaller animals within a species live longer and caloric restriction is the only effective method for extending an animal's lifespan. For example, smaller dogs, mice, rates, horses and elephants live longer than bigger ones. In addition, much data on non-human primates and humans finds that smaller bodies, if not due to malnutrition or illness, tend to live longer. For example, Holzenberger (1991) found that shorter men lived longer than tall ones based on a population of 1.3 million men tracked over a 70 year period. Salaris and Poulain also found the same pattern for a town in Sardinia. Samaras has found numerous studies that support their findings.

For more information on height and its ramifications, see the book: Samaras (ed) Human Body Size and the Laws of Scaling, Nova Science, NY, 2007, provides extensive data on increasing height and body weight and its ramifications in relation to longevity, physical and intellectual performance, resource needs and the environment. The book points out that increasing human body size is a threat to human survival.

For a list of about 40 papers and books on height, weight and health, etc. see:

www.humanbodysize.com

 

Tom Samaras, height researcher 

Reventropy Associates 

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