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Sunday, July 26, 2009


I'm 40 something guy...taking college classes again, so I spend many days around young men and women, many half my age and more.

Recently I began noticing something: Most of them are much shorter than I am.

Some background:

When I was young, my grandfather was a 6 footer, and my dad was 6'1". My parents told me Doctors had said that I could be as tall as 6'4".

Eventually, I did grow to be nearly 6'2"...and after years of squeezing myself into back seats, airline seats and searching endlessly for pants with a 36" quite glad not to have grown into those predictions.

In high-school, many of my friends were 5'10" and taller. Some towered over me.

In the late 70's in college, I felt like I was in average in height. Perhaps a bit taller than most...but not a freakish giant either.

But recently I began to notice that most every male in my college classes were 5'10" and less. I look over the heads of most all of them with few rare exceptions.

I wondered if there was anything to this. Whether it was a trend...or a local phenomena. Or if I just imagined that the people from my generations and those before us...were actually taller.

Entering "Americans getting shorter" in google gave me the instant answer: YES! It seems from research and studies...we ARE.

So why is this happening?

My first thought went to the change in the way families now eat.

When I was a kid, almost everyone ate meals prepared at home. There were few fast food restaurants to be found...and eating meals out were rare occasions.

My mother cooked balanced meals, NOTHING was fried, and she always included plenty of fruit and vegetables

But now: According to a study by the Social Science Quarterly:

"[...] we can conjecture that there are differences in the diet of U.S. and European children that could affect human growth. For example, U.S. children consume more meals prepared outside the home, more fast food rich in fat, high in energy density, and low in essential micro nutrients, than do European children."

And from another link in reference to the same article:

Now, with an average height of 5′10″, American men are now significantly shorter than men from countries [such as] Denmark (6-footers) or the Netherlands (6′ 1″). In fact, Americans –men and women — are now shorter, on average, than the citizens of every single country in Western and Northern Europe.

So Americans are becoming shorter...and it would seem our diet is at least partially too blame. (Other research points to other causes including our overly medicated society)

I'd write more on the subject but I'm meeting the neighbors and their kids at McDonald's.


NEXT post: Why in the world are Americans getting fatter???

: /


  1. i like to believe that my presence and the way i hold myself with dignity and grace makes me not unlike a giant in some regards.

    anyways, there's a movie making the rounds called "Food Inc" which goes over, in a journalistic non-Michael Moore fashion, why America's food is not what it used to be.

    there was also an interview on the PBS's NOW program with the film's creator:

  2. Thanks Josh! And YES! Your dignity and grace do make you loom large in my mind's eye! : )

    I'm going to see Food Inc this Sunday. Oddly enough, I first saw a poster for the movie at Chipotle, which initially counted McDonald's as one of it's primary investors.

    Thanks for the links!

    Years ago, I read Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal by Eric Schlosser. It's a bit academic and not a easy read...but I'd recommend it.

    According to Schlosser: The Fast Food industry helped destroy the meat packing industry (ie: why we now need to cook all hamburger meat to at least medium), and the treatment of their workers is generally abysmal (ie: short term workers who never earn benefits is the model)

    Thanks for commenting!