Poor diet - Shorter children


Comparing across ethnic/cultural groups is a slippery path.

Talk to me about trends within cultures and I’ll listen. Tall people with little body fat is the norm in the Netherlands…neither is the norm in the South Pacific, where a higher BMI is still considered the ideal.


I’d like to follow along. Height and weight, and BMI are important for the children I treat.

It is my impression that the US does not have an agreed upon interpretation of BMI for children. I’d love to learn more.

A “poor diet”, by definition, can’t be a “rich” thing, but I am curious about if and how shorter might have come to be a negative thing, or taller a positive.


It’s about inadequate/healthy nutrition in the diet of the children in their school years due to factors such as living conditions and socioeconomic status. From this study they think weigh gains and height are closely linked to the quality of the children’s diet. Up until the age of 5 most children grow normally and healthy. Some countries invest more in the well-being of children and this is the result.

According to some studies, children in low-income families tend to be fatter. Parents work hard, not enough time to cook, the children eat more fast food than home-cooked food. Stress and safety in the home and their environment are also some of the factors.

1 Like

Thank you. I clicked the Lancet link, but it did not take me to the original publication. Presumably then, the Netherlands invests the most in the well-being of children abd East Timor and Guatemala the least?

I can see the idea being true in general, but my oldest is short and stout, looks just like my sister in-law, and my youngest tall and lean, like my dad, and youngest got less time and home cooked food. Just anecdotal of course.

I agree with the idea, and it’s why some kids get “free” breakfast and lunch at school here too.

I’m going to look for the original article.

It’s only a small factor. They/the study somehow completely didn’t take genetics into account.

The Dutch diet is high dairy and meat based (only in 3 generations, they used to be same height as other Europeans and did not eat so much dairy and meat). Apparently, Dutch children are “happiest*” in the world according to latest poll. That are also some of the factors.

(* most insolent more like)


Interesting! Especially the three generation part. Is that across “races”? It reminds me of the “Orchid child” theory. I wonder if Dutch children could be especially sensitive to good diet and environment.

1 Like

Comparison is indeed a slippery path.

Also, high weight in the Pacific is due to a range of issues-- whilst historically there was some value placed on size, a lot of this is also down to colonialism and food sourcing on the islands. A lot of processed food is part of the diets, and for those wondering about why fruits aren’t higher, many islands/ post-colonial nations are in thrall to structural adjustment programmes that make export crucial. In the latter regard I know less about the Pacific (and even then there are important distinctions to make between Melanesia and Polynesia).

The question of dealing with weight is fraught, even there (and again ‘there’ is so complicated-- are we talking Fiji, Samoa, PNG, Papua, etc.)…


On my first trip to the Netherlands I first thought they had strange bikes because the proportions seemed weird. Then I realized that the seats and handle bars had all been raised extremely high as the people were so tall. When I was in London, I worked with a woman who was from France. Her boyfriend was Dutch. One weekend she went to visit his family in holland. When she came back to work, I asked her how the weekend went. She told me she felt like a midget in a family of giants. All of her boyfriend’s family was tall and their furniture was scaled to their height. When she sat on the sofa she said her feet didn’t touch the floor.


The first time I went to Amsterdam, I (<5’ tall) was hit on by a man with dwarfism, who I imagine was thrilled to death to see someone close-ish to his own height.


I can bring something of an historical perspective to this (at least from a UK point of view). As I have mentioned before, in real life I am a military history researcher and author with a particular interest in the Great War. One of my books is about food during the war. As part of my " research archive", I was able to undertake an analysis of men who had enlisted into my town’s Territorial battalion (similar to an American National Guard unit).

There is a clear division in social class between men who were officers and the others. Officers were invariably middle class. The other ranks were invariably working class - men who worked in manual labour jobs in the area’s cotton mills and hat works. Dietary differences between the social classes are well reported in Victorian and Edwardian Britain. And there was very clear evidence that this led to differences in height - on average, officers were two inches taller than the men they commanded.

1 Like

Have you watched “The Great British Menu”? One season was dedicated to food during WW 2.

ETA “Series 9: D-Day Banquet”.

I watched the first couple of series but not the more recent ones

1 Like

This is totally anecdotal, but I’ve noticed that people who have moved to the US from Asia (in my case, mostly China and Vietnam) and have kids born in the USA tend to have their kids grow up quite a bit taller than their parents.
My wild-guess theory is that the families tend to at least partially adopt western-type higher protein diets vs more plant-based diets where they moved from and that’s partly what causes the kids to reach the maximum of their potential height.

1 Like

That makes sense to me. I wouldn’t be surprised if even within the same country, each generation is a bit taller than the last.

But I’m still curious; is it because being taller is a sign of eating well that being taller is desirable?

When I was very young . The doctor told my mom . My God he has a huge head . Bowling ball size . I am 6’8" . Lol . Something happened along the way.


Sounds like the rest of you caught up with your head.

1 Like

No idea. I’m pretty sure that kids’ being well nourished is desirable by parents the world over, though. Possibly being taller is just bycatch to some.

Hormones in food (and other things) might have something to do with it too.


You make an excellent point.