Growth variation, final height and secular trend. Proceedings of the 17th Aschauer Soiree, 7th November 2009


Growth and body height have always been topics interesting to the public. In particular, the stupendous increase of some 15-19cm in final adult height during the last 150 years in most European countries (the “secular trend”), the concomitant changes in body and head proportions, the tendency towards early onset of sexual maturation, the changes in the age when final height is being reached, and the very recent trend in body mass index, have generated much scientific literature. The marked plasticity of growth in height and weight over time causes problems. Child growth references differ between nations, they tend to quickly become out of date, and raise a number of questions regarding fitting methods, effects caused by selective drop-out, etc. New findings contradict common beliefs about the primary importance of nutritional and health related factors for secular changes in growth. There appears to be a broad age span from mid-childhood to early adolescence that is characterised by a peculiar insusceptibility. Environmental factors that are known to influence growth during this age span appear to have only little or no impact on final height. Major re-arrangements in height occur at an age when puberty has almost been completed and final height has almost been reached, implying that factors, which drive the secular trend in height, are limited to early childhood and late adolescence. JID: 0374655; 2010/01/19 [received]; 2010/06/08 [accepted]; 2010/07/13 [aheadofprint]; ppublish

Homo : Internationale Zeitschrift fur die vergleichende Forschung am Menschen, (61), 4, 277–284