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200 years of breeding & selection: Dutch from shortest to tallest

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– Gameness til the End

Scientists try to answer why Dutch people are so tall

Agence France-Presse
Wednesday 8 April 2015 02.21 BST
Last modified on Wednesday 8 April 2015 10.56 BST | theguardian.com

Average height of a male in the Netherlands has gained 20 cm (eight inches) in the last 150 years, according to military records


A young girl measures herself in front of growth chart. Natural selection and good environmental conditions may help explain why the Dutch are so tall. Photograph: Lee Clower/Lee Clower/weestock/Corbis

The Netherlands is the land of giants: on average, its women stand almost 1.71 metres (5.6 feet) tall, and its men 1.84 metres.

But how the Dutch became the world’s tallest people has been somewhat of a mystery. After all, two centuries ago they were renowned for being among the shortest. What happened since then?

A popular explanation is nutrition – a calorie-stuffed diet rich in meat and dairy products. But that can’t be the whole story, experts say.

Other European countries, too, have enjoyed similar prosperity and a rise in living standards, yet their citizens have not shot skywards as much. The average male height in the Netherlands has gained 20 cm (eight inches) in the last 150 years, according to military records. By comparison, the height of the average American man has risen a mere six centimetres over the same period.

Researchers led by Gert Stulp, a specialist in population health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, combed a Dutch database for clues.

Called LifeLines, the record contains exhaustive detail about the lives and health of more than 94,500 people who lived in the northern the Netherlands from 1935 to 1967. In this three-decade snapshot, the people who had the most children were tall men, and women of average height, the team found.

For example, the most fertile men were seven centimetres above the average height. Statistically, they had 0.24 more children on average than the least fertile men, who were about 14 cm below the average height.

Compared to counterparts in other countries where they often tended to have fewer children, taller women also reproduced more in the Netherlands. Many postponed having children until after their studies, but once they forged a successful relationship, often had a large family.

The study did not involve genetic testing, but concluded from the observations that natural selection must have played a part: with time, more and more Dutch started sporting tall genes.

“Natural selection in addition to good environmental conditions may help explain why the Dutch are so tall,” said the study published Wednesday in the Royal Society journal Proceedings B.

“Height is very heritable – taller parents tend to have somewhat taller children than shorter parents,” Stulp said. “Because taller individuals would have more offspring in the next generation who would be taller, the average height in that generation would a bit taller on average than the preceding generation, if all else is equal.”

There seems to be a cultural preference as well.

Stulp pointed to figures showing that, in the United States, shorter women and men of average height have the most reproductive success.

“There is much variation in what men and women want,” he said. “When it comes to choosing a mate, height tends to have (only) a small effect, which is not very surprising given the many other, more important, traits people value in their mate.”

Why do the Dutch tower over us?

Wednesday, 8 April 2015 | abc.net.au
ABC/AFP


(Source: NickNick_ko/iStockphoto)

The Netherlands has the tallest people on Earth: on average, its women stand almost 1.71 metres tall, and its men 1.84 metres.

Two centuries ago they were renowned for being among the shortest. So just how they’ve shot up so fast has been somewhat of a mystery.

A popular explanation is nutrition — a calorie-stuffed diet rich in meat and dairy products.

But that can’t be the whole story, experts say.

Other European countries, too, have enjoyed similar prosperity and a rise in living standards, yet their citizens have not shot skywards as much.

The average male height in the Netherlands has gained 20 centimetres in the last 150 years, according to military records.

By comparison, the height of the average American man has risen a mere six centimetres over the same period.

Researchers led by Gert Stulp, a specialist in population health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, combed a Dutch database for clues.

Called LifeLines, the record contains exhaustive detail about the lives and health of more than 94,500 people who lived in the northern Netherlands from 1935 to 1967.

In this three-decade snapshot, the people who had the most children were tall men, and women of average height, the team found.

For example, the most fertile men were seven centimetres above the average height. Statistically, they had 0.24 more children on average than the least fertile men, who were about 14 centimetres below the average height.

Compared to counterparts in other countries where they often tended to have fewer children, taller women also reproduced more in the Netherlands.

Many postponed having children until after their studies, but once they forged a successful relationship, often had a large family.

The study did not involve genetic testing, but concluded from the observations that natural selection must have played a part: with time, more and more Dutch started sporting tall genes.

“Natural selection in addition to good environmental conditions may help explain why the Dutch are so tall,” the researchers write in the Royal Society journal Proceedings B..

Tall, tallest, taller

“Height is very heritable — taller parents tend to have somewhat taller children than shorter parents,” says Stulp.

“Because taller individuals would have more offspring in the next generation who would be taller, the average height in that generation would a bit taller on average than the preceding generation, if all else is equal.”

There seems to be a cultural preference as well.

Stulp points to figures showing that, in the United States, shorter women and men of average height have the most reproductive success.

“There is much variation in what men and women want,” he said.

“When it comes to choosing a mate, height tends to have (only) a small effect, which is not very surprising given the many other, more important, traits people value in their mate.”

How does Australia measure up?

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the average height of an Australian man is 175.6 centimetres, and the average Australian woman is 161.8 centimetres tall — an increase of 0.8 centimetres and 0.4 centimetres since 1995.

In general, Australian males and females aged 75 or over are 8.1 centimetres shorter than ones aged 18-24 years.

A tall story: Why do the Dutch tower over us?

Apr 07, 2015 by Richard Ingham | phys.org

People walk along the beach at Egmond aan Zee on March 8, 2015, in the Netherlands

The Netherlands is the land of giants: on average, its women stand almost 1.71 metres (5.6 feet) tall, and its men 1.84 metres.

But how the Dutch became the world’s tallest people has been somewhat of a mystery.

After all, two centuries ago they were renowned for being among the shortest. What happened since then?

A popular explanation is nutrition—a calorie-stuffed diet rich in meat and dairy products.

But that can’t be the whole story, experts say.

Other European countries, too, have enjoyed similar prosperity and a rise in living standards, yet their citizens have not shot skywards as much.

The average male height in the Netherlands has gained 20 cm (eight inches) in the last 150 years, according to military records.

By comparison, the height of the average American man has risen a mere six cm over the same period.

Researchers led by Gert Stulp, a specialist in population health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, combed a Dutch database for clues.

Called LifeLines, the record contains exhaustive detail about the lives and health of more than 94,500 people who lived in the northern the Netherlands from 1935 to 1967.

In this three-decade snapshot, the people who had the most children were tall men, and women of average height, the team found.

For example, the most fertile men were 7 cm above the average height. Statistically, they had 0.24 more children on average than the least fertile men, who were about 14 cm below the average height.

Compared to counterparts in other countries where they often tended to have fewer children, taller women also reproduced more in the Netherlands.

Many postponed having children until after their studies, but once they forged a successful relationship, often had a large family.

The study did not involve genetic testing, but concluded from the observations that natural selection must have played a part: with time, more and more Dutch started sporting tall genes.

“Natural selection in addition to good environmental conditions may help explain why the Dutch are so tall,” said the study published Wednesday in the Royal Society journal Proceedings B.

Tall, tallest, taller

“Height is very heritable—taller parents tend to have somewhat taller children than shorter parents,” Stulp told AFP by email.

“Because taller individuals would have more offspring in the next generation who would be taller, the average height in that generation would a bit taller on average than the preceding generation, if all else is equal.”

There seems to be a cultural preference as well.

Stulp pointed to figures showing that, in the United States, shorter women and men of average height have the most reproductive success.

“There is much variation in what men and women want,” he said.

“When it comes to choosing a mate, height tends to have (only) a small effect, which is not very surprising given the many other, more important, traits people value in their mate.”

More information

Proceedings of the Royal Society B, rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/lookup/doi/10.1098/rspb.2015.0211

Journal reference

Proceedings of the Royal Society B

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