Photo by Rob Tinworth

  • On a population level, stunted people are not healthy - Height is a sign of good health.
  • It is not the amount of calories you eat which make you tall and healthy, but nutrients such as Vitamin A, calcium, iron, folate are essential for proper growth.
  • Each of malnutrition, infectious disease, warfare, and emotional stress reduces height and takes years off healthy life. Proportions are not genetically determined but very “plastic.”

The whole concept that people come in certain racial types such as “short-legged” turns out to be rubbish. It’s all about diet and health,” says Dr. Barry Bogin.

In his recent interview about child nutrition and growth, conclusions drawn from studies he conducted in Guatemala and in the US all point towards the fact that “proportions are not genetically determined” but rather environmentally determined.

Findings on the Maya population’s height support this statement: In fact, the Maya population – a very short population in Guatemala, seemed to be taller and healthier in the US than in Central America.

Dr. Barry Bogin explains that in contrast to what previous studies have shown in the past, the amount of calories children eat is not what makes them tall and healthy. The average height of a population can increase and decline over time and this change is associated with environmental and contextual factors including: political stability, hygiene, access to clean drinking water and lack of war for example, which are associated with increasing heights among children over generations.

It takes about five or six generations to overcome a history of malnutrition, infectious disease, warfare, and emotional stress. Each one of those problems reduces height and takes years off healthy life. Together they have synergistic effects that are more than additive. It takes five or six generations to recuperate normal birth weights and growth after just one generation of insult!"


Read the article on the GlobalHealthHub: Child malnutrition, growth, and development in global health – An interview with Dr. Barry Bogin

Read more recent articles from One Goal: Nutrition round-up, and The Millennium Development Goals - 500 days to go