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  #1  
Old 02-09-2005, 06:28 AM
Fridgemagnet Fridgemagnet is offline
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Why are the Dutch so tall?

I've spent a fair bit of time in the Netherlands, and it's the one country in the world where I don't tower over the majority of the population, and I'm about 6'3".

Why are the Dutch so tall? I know it can be partly explained by genes (Germanic and Nordic tribes must have originally been quite lanky), but the Dutch are still noticably taller than the average German, Brit or Scandanavian.

A few points to note:

1) Dutch men are the tallest in Europe, but British women are taller than Dutch women on average.
2) The Dutch diet is quite heavy on dairy products and meat.
3) The average Dutch person is fairly fit and active, and very few people are overweight.
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  #2  
Old 02-09-2005, 06:42 AM
Kimstu Kimstu is offline
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I have been wondering about this ever since I moved to the Netherlands last fall, after living in India for the previous year. I feel suddenly shorter. A lot shorter.

Apparently the Dutch are going through some kind of regional "growth spurt" at the moment. I didn't realize such things were possible, but I guess it comes from a general nationwide boost in good nutrition etc.?

Dutch people now the tallest in the world
Quote:
[T]he Dutch as a whole are now the tallest people in the world, while Americans, who held that title for two centuries, stopped growing 50 years ago.

At the end of World War II, the average American male was nearly 5 foot 10, while the average Dutchman measured little more than 5 foot 7. But starting in the 1950s, the Dutch began shooting up, an average of almost an inch per decade, to the point that the average height for an adult Dutch male today is just under 6 foot 1.

During the same period, Americans expanded horizontally but not vertically. The average height of the American male today is stuck at 5 feet 9 1/2 inches. U.S. women have actually lost a third of an inch and are on average slightly over 5 foot 4.

"More milk products, smaller families and better hygiene -- those are the main reasons why the Dutch have increased in length," Bruintjes said. "But I also think there must be something in our genetic makeup."

Genetics may hold some answers to why Bruintjes, 53, is at least a head taller than his neighbors, but researchers say it doesn't shed much light on why the Dutch as a whole are so much taller than the Americans or the Italians or the Greeks.
If the "milk products" thing is significant, then I can certainly see why the Dutch are shooting up so. Boy do these folks drink milk.

Of course, as the percentage of the Dutch population with Turkish, Moroccan, etc. ancestry grows, I guess the average height will come down a bit. (Similarly, shorter Latino immigrants may have slightly affected the American growth spurt.) Not enough to make me feel not-short, though.
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Old 02-09-2005, 06:51 AM
Arwin Arwin is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fridgemagnet
I've spent a fair bit of time in the Netherlands, and it's the one country in the world where I don't tower over the majority of the population, and I'm about 6'3".

Why are the Dutch so tall? I know it can be partly explained by genes (Germanic and Nordic tribes must have originally been quite lanky), but the Dutch are still noticably taller than the average German, Brit or Scandanavian.

A few points to note:

1) Dutch men are the tallest in Europe, but British women are taller than Dutch women on average.
Cite? I know the first part is true, but I can't for the life of me imagine the second part.

Quote:
2) The Dutch diet is quite heavy on dairy products and meat.
One report on this mentioned that both quantity and diversity in kinds of vegetables combined with the dairy products together were responsible for our increasing growth - relative to, say, the Norwegians whom we have overtaken some 5-10 years ago.

One significant trend in Norway was that milk was quickly being replaced with soft-drinks like coke, which combined with the vegetables (we grow a lot of them in our greenhouses, apparently so efficiently that despite our small country and the energy inefficiency of doing that in our climate, we export vegetables all over Europe).

However, they also seem to have found that the Scandinavians have a certain DNA coded limit to how tall they can get, which doesn't seem present in the Dutch. I'm not sure the final word is out on this. What is certain is that particularly the people from the north (including the Friesians) of the Netherlands have, throughout history, always been comparatively large.

Quote:
3) The average Dutch person is fairly fit and active, and very few people are overweight.
It would seem that way, but that's just because the other countries are going up faster. We too are getting fatter and fatter and so are our kids, but we just keep some 10-20% behind the others - for the kids this is almost wholly attributed to our cycling habits; most kids cycle to school, which keeps them relatively fit. I think we should make it mandatory, it's very obviously much healthier in many ways. And of course a lot of adults still cycle too.

Our exuberant consumption of diary products also makes us fat and unhealthy though - we eat far too much cheese than is good for us, I think if we'd cut down on that without losing out on the calcium, we could easily raise average life-expectancy by another 5 years, and together moderating alcohol consumption (we can drink like the best of them) would also take care of a lot of overweight problems.
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Old 02-09-2005, 07:34 AM
Fridgemagnet Fridgemagnet is offline
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Thanks for the enlightening posts, Arwin and Kimstu. Maybe a combination of genes with tallness-potential and diet then. I went to a reggae festival in Eindhoven a while back, and most of the people there were Dutch guys of Afro-Caribbean origin, and they were mostly huge.

I don't think the Dutch diet is particularly healthy, even though it may make a person taller. If pedalling heavy bikes wasn't so popular then the Dutch would be in quite poor shape.

Arwin mentions the Netherlands being a net exporter of vegetables, despite land being at a bit of a premium. This is true (we eat a lot of Dutch produce in Britain), but is enabled through highly intensive agriculture that requires heavy use of fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, hormones, and so on. It's difficult to say what the effects of long-term exposure to such chemical residues would have, but I guess we'll find out eventually.
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  #5  
Old 02-09-2005, 07:38 AM
Carnac the Magnificent! Carnac the Magnificent! is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kimstu

Of course, as the percentage of the Dutch population with Turkish, Moroccan, etc. ancestry grows, I guess the average height will come down a bit. (Similarly, shorter Latino immigrants may have slightly affected the American growth spurt.) Not enough to make me feel not-short, though.


As nutrition generally improves--at least, re: consumption of proteins--so too does the trend toward a taller population. As a cohort, young Americans are clearly taller than their grandparents.

What pulls down the US average, as you note, has been the tens of millions of immigrants--hispanics, asians and middle easterners. Many of the hispanics, male and female, are quite short. I'm not sure if the disparity alone is strictly dietary, but access to good and abundant proteins is by no means assured in these countries of origin.
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  #6  
Old 02-09-2005, 07:43 AM
picker picker is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Arwin
Our exuberant consumption of diary products also makes us fat and unhealthy though
Yeah, you gotta watch out for that - sitting around in your bedroom writing to yourself all day long tends to make you introspective and pudgy.

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  #7  
Old 02-09-2005, 08:06 AM
Maastricht Maastricht is offline
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A thread from last March on the same subject.
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  #8  
Old 02-09-2005, 09:12 AM
Spoke Spoke is offline
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Originally Posted by Carnac the Magnificent!
Many of the hispanics, male and female, are quite short. I'm not sure if the disparity alone is strictly dietary, but access to good and abundant proteins is by no means assured in these countries of origin.
I believe the disparity is dietary. Native Americans towered over the first European arrivals to the new world, according to historical accounts, presumably because of the natives' meat-heavy diet. (European diets of the day were grain-heavy.) (There was an Atlantic Monthly article some years back which discussed this.)

So one would think it is not predestined for the (mostly European-ancestored) US natives to be taller than the (often Native-American-ancestored) hispanics who are arriving.
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  #9  
Old 02-09-2005, 09:28 AM
Spoke Spoke is offline
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Here's an interesting article on historic and comparative heights, including some educated guesses on the reasons for height differences.
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  #10  
Old 02-09-2005, 09:54 AM
bump bump is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Carnac the Magnificent!
What pulls down the US average, as you note, has been the tens of millions of immigrants--hispanics, asians and middle easterners. Many of the hispanics, male and female, are quite short. I'm not sure if the disparity alone is strictly dietary, but access to good and abundant proteins is by no means assured in these countries of origin.
I tend to agree. Among white or black American men, I'm not seen as particularly short or tall, and I'm somewhere between 6' and 6'1". However, it's rare to find hispanic or asian men that come anywhere near my height, and I live in an area with plenty of both!
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  #11  
Old 02-09-2005, 10:33 AM
F. U. Shakespeare F. U. Shakespeare is offline
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I thought this as well. But the linked New Yorker article claims it isn't so:

Quote:
The obvious answer would seem to be immigration. The more Mexicans and Chinese there are in the United States, the shorter the American population becomes. But the height statistics that Komlos cites include only native-born Americans who speak English at home, and he is careful to screen out people of Asian and Hispanic descent. In any case, according to Richard Steckel, who has also analyzed American heights, the United States takes in too few immigrants to account for the disparity with Northern Europe.
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  #12  
Old 02-09-2005, 11:03 AM
Terminus Est Terminus Est is offline
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The Dutch are so tall because their country is so low. They have to be tall to see over all the dikes!
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  #13  
Old 02-09-2005, 11:51 AM
MrAlpen MrAlpen is offline
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Originally Posted by Terminus Est
The Dutch are so tall because their country is so low. They have to be tall to see over all the dikes!
This has to be the answer - continuing inundation from the sea lends a survival edge to those with the highest nostrils. I work in Delft, and have discussed this with my towering Dutch colleagues and they confirm that all the short Dutch guys drowned in the gene pool long ago.
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  #14  
Old 02-09-2005, 12:15 PM
Spectre of Pithecanthropus Spectre of Pithecanthropus is offline
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I for one welcome our new....



Oh, never mind.
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  #15  
Old 02-09-2005, 03:14 PM
pinkfreud pinkfreud is offline
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There's a lot of speculation (but no definitive answer) here:

http://www.answers.google.com/answers/threadview?id=304226
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  #16  
Old 02-09-2005, 08:43 PM
Carnac the Magnificent! Carnac the Magnificent! is offline
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Quote:
I believe the disparity is dietary. Native Americans towered over the first European arrivals to the new world, according to historical accounts, presumably because of the natives' meat-heavy diet. (European diets of the day were grain-heavy.) (There was an Atlantic Monthly article some years back which discussed this.)

So one would think it is not predestined for the (mostly European-ancestored) US natives to be taller than the (often Native-American-ancestored) hispanics who are arriving.

"Towered"? That sounds a bit shaky. If the Euro late comers were, say, five foot three inches tall, on average, their Native American counterparts would have to be well above six feet tall to "tower" over them, by anyone's measure.

I've got to believe a goodly number of Chinese, Koreans and SE Asians eat ample protein--though I don't claim the majority do--yet rarely do I see them towering over Americans, Yao Ming excepted. Where are the towering people of Native American ancestry today?
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  #17  
Old 02-10-2005, 07:55 AM
Frieling Frieling is offline
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Why are the Dutch so tall?

Although diet certainly affects how tall we grow, I believe there is more to the height of the Dutch than that. I'm an American of Dutch descent. I'm 6'3'. As I went to grade school with my fellow Dutch Americans, I didn't really feel tall. About half of the guys were over 6' when full grow. In high school with a broader mix of mostly European Americans, I was suddenly one of the taller ones. I don't think our diet was much diiferent than the average American so I'd say the Dutch genes made us taller. Are there any statistics on height available for subgroups like Dutch-Americans?
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  #18  
Old 02-10-2005, 09:11 AM
Triskadecamus Triskadecamus is offline
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I think it's the shoes. Those clog things are thicker than Reboks.

Tris
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  #19  
Old 02-10-2005, 09:38 AM
Arwin Arwin is offline
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My ex-girlfriend really liked a particular show where adopted children went in search of their real parents. Watching along with her a few times, it struck me how much taller some children had become than their parents or siblings.
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Old 01-07-2015, 11:10 PM
NativeMan1 NativeMan1 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Carnac the Magnificent! View Post
"Towered"? That sounds a bit shaky. If the Euro late comers were, say, five foot three inches tall, on average, their Native American counterparts would have to be well above six feet tall to "tower" over them, by anyone's measure.

I've got to believe a goodly number of Chinese, Koreans and SE Asians eat ample protein--though I don't claim the majority do--yet rarely do I see them towering over Americans, Yao Ming excepted. Where are the towering people of Native American ancestry today?
We are still here! It is that our populations are so low that no one seems to notice us. Plus many of the taller tribes were killed off by diseases such as, the Timucan, Taino, Etc. My Nation is average about 6'1''. However my family the Looks-twice family stands about 6'4'' on average. My Grand-father 6'3''. My Father 6'6''. Me 16, 6'4''. Usually, my family grows until there about 21 so I still could have a while to grow. One man in my nation is 7'1''. We all call him "Tall Bear", or "What's up?"! So, we are still here just in low population. FYI, not all nations were "towering". However most, if not all, nations were taller than Europeans at that time. For any further questions contact me on here.
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  #21  
Old 01-07-2015, 11:21 PM
Flywheel Flywheel is offline
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You mean those giants I saw there weren't just windmills?
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  #22  
Old 01-07-2015, 11:57 PM
Shagnasty Shagnasty is offline
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Originally Posted by Frieling View Post
Are there any statistics on height available for subgroups like Dutch-Americans?
I always wondered about that too. I am of 100% American Southern descent with deep English, Scottish and some Scandinavian roots. I am either 6'1" or 6"2 depending on the time of day that you measure me. I have always been slightly taller than average but it wasn't really notable until I moved to the Northeast. I feel like an absolute giant compared to most people here no matter where their ancestors came from (largeky Southern European). However, even the English, Irish and black people aren't nearly as big as they are in the South. Every time I go back home, I am immediately struck by the fact that I am far from the tallest person around for the first time in a long time. Some of them are just fat and moderately tall but certainly not all of them. The younger males, both black and white just tend to be unusually big compared to people in Boston or NYC.

I have heard the dietary explanation but it seems incomplete to me. We didn't eat especially nutritiously when I was growing up but we still grew a nice crop of extremely tall and statuesque people from several different ethnic groups. Only the recent hispanic and Asian immigrants were small as a whole.

I would also love to see stats on height differences among different ethnic groups in the U.S. and exactly where they are coming from because it may help answer the question much better.

Last edited by Shagnasty; 01-07-2015 at 11:59 PM..
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  #23  
Old 01-08-2015, 12:04 AM
Askance Askance is offline
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Originally Posted by Triskadecamus View Post
I think it's the shoes. Those clog things are thicker than Reboks.



Tris
Nah. The Netherlands are below sea level. It's survival of the tallest - all the short ones drowned.
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  #24  
Old 01-08-2015, 01:08 AM
The Second Stone The Second Stone is offline
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Easier to get more oxygen in the lungs at below sea level where the air is so dense. Good nutrition.
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  #25  
Old 01-08-2015, 01:44 AM
Hector_St_Clare Hector_St_Clare is offline
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Originally Posted by Spoke View Post
I believe the disparity is dietary. Native Americans towered over the first European arrivals to the new world, according to historical accounts, presumably because of the natives' meat-heavy diet. (European diets of the day were grain-heavy.) (There was an Atlantic Monthly article some years back which discussed this.)

So one would think it is not predestined for the (mostly European-ancestored) US natives to be taller than the (often Native-American-ancestored) hispanics who are arriving.
Uh, what?

1) Mexicans are the single largest Latino group, and they have more European than native heritage, though of course they're much more indigenous than Anglo-Americans are.

2) Mexican and northern Central American civilization was notorious for having severe deficiencies of meat and protein. They had game, of course, but they didn't have domestic animals with the exception of dogs, Muscovy ducks and turkeys. Their main staple grain, corn, was also poorer in protein than the biggest European staple, wheat.

3) Do you have any citations that native American peoples (with the exception of Tierra del Fuegians, who have nothing to do with modern Latino immigration) were taller than white Europeans? Sounds doubtful to me at least as regards Mexico & Central America. (My understanding is that Peruvian Incas were quite well nourished- they had llamas and guinea pigs and lived next to one of the world's richest ocean fisheries- so they may have been taller than the Spanish).

4) I would guess, personally, that the reasons Mexicans and other Latinos are relatively short has to do with genetics (both on the southern European side, and on the native American side). It's late now, but I'll look for citations tomorrow.
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  #26  
Old 01-08-2015, 01:59 AM
Wendell Wagner Wendell Wagner is offline
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Fridgemagnet writes:

> 1) Dutch men are the tallest in Europe, but British women are taller than Dutch
> women on average.

Not true. You can see this in the following link. Both Dutch men and women are taller than British men and women. It appears to me that the difference between men's and women's height is about the same percentage in each country:

http://www.disabled-world.com/artman...ht-chart.shtml
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  #27  
Old 01-08-2015, 03:23 AM
iljitsch iljitsch is offline
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Living in Holland, it seems to me that women have been getting shorter the past few decades. Which would be easily explained by girls hitting puberty earlier and earlier.

Whenever I'm in America I'm always surprised to see how tiny many American women are, while the men are only slightly shorter than what I'd call average.
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Old 01-08-2015, 05:23 AM
Ms Boods Ms Boods is offline
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I've been married to the OP for three years (well, a little later this year), and met him a few years before that -- this thread is older than our relationship.

Shall I go downstairs and let him know that it's walking among the living?
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  #29  
Old 01-08-2015, 08:12 AM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is offline
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Wilt Chamberlain spent a week in the Netherlands back in 1975 and the effects are still noticeable.
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Old 01-08-2015, 08:18 AM
Wendell Wagner Wendell Wagner is offline
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iljitsch writes:

> Whenever I'm in America I'm always surprised to see how tiny many American
> women are, while the men are only slightly shorter than what I'd call average.

Not true. Dutch men are 9.5% taller than Dutch women on average, and American men are 8.6% taller than American women on average, as you can see in the chart I linked to. Really, it's almost impossible for a person to make an accurate statement about average heights in a country. It's too easy to be swayed by your local observations. Furthermore, I suspect that the way height is inherited that there's no way that the percentage by which men tend to be taller than women could differ by much.
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Old 01-08-2015, 08:24 AM
Wendell Wagner Wendell Wagner is offline
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Little Nemo writes:

> Wilt Chamberlain spent a week in the Netherlands back in 1975 and the effects are
> still noticeable.

The effects being what - that twenty-four years later he died?
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  #32  
Old 01-08-2015, 08:35 AM
John Mace John Mace is offline
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Originally Posted by NativeMan1 View Post
We are still here! It is that our populations are so low that no one seems to notice us. Plus many of the taller tribes were killed off by diseases such as, the Timucan, Taino, Etc.
Never heard of those diseases. What's the cure for Taino?

Quote:
My Nation is average about 6'1''. However my family the Looks-twice family stands about 6'4'' on average. My Grand-father 6'3''. My Father 6'6''. Me 16, 6'4''. Usually, my family grows until there about 21 so I still could have a while to grow. One man in my nation is 7'1''. We all call him "Tall Bear", or "What's up?"! So, we are still here just in low population. FYI, not all nations were "towering". However most, if not all, nations were taller than Europeans at that time. For any further questions contact me on here.
How?

Last edited by John Mace; 01-08-2015 at 08:35 AM..
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  #33  
Old 01-08-2015, 09:04 AM
Nelson Pike Nelson Pike is offline
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Originally Posted by Wendell Wagner View Post
Little Nemo writes:

> Wilt Chamberlain spent a week in the Netherlands back in 1975 and the effects are
> still noticeable.

The effects being what - that twenty-four years later he died?
In an autobio Chamberlain claimed to have slept with 20,000 women in his life, which would have meant 500 per year from ages 15-55, over 1 per day. Perhaps while in the Neth. Chamberlain took advantage of the healthy local diet to increase his powers of endurance, and took advantage of the legal pot and high alcohol consumption to find women, many, many women whose reluctant side had been diminished.
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Old 01-08-2015, 09:24 AM
bump bump is offline
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I tend to agree. Among white or black American men, I'm not seen as particularly short or tall, and I'm somewhere between 6' and 6'1". However, it's rare to find hispanic or asian men that come anywhere near my height, and I live in an area with plenty of both!
Heh... replying to my own 9 year old thread- strange!

Anyway, in the intervening time, I've actually been to Europe some 3 more times, including the Netherlands, and I didn't feel particularly short or tall there- most men were somewhere around my height, and there weren't any more 6'4" or 5'8" men than there are here. FWIW I've never felt particularly tall or short when I've visited the UK either.

I suspect that the Dutch and British height distributions and the US white male height distributions are all pretty similar, and that the US average height is skewed by immigrant groups.
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Old 01-08-2015, 10:43 AM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is offline
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Originally Posted by Wendell Wagner View Post
The effects being what - that twenty-four years later he died?
It's a little thing we like to call a joke.

Here is the background information you will need:
1. Wilt Chamberlain was a basketball player.
2. Basketball players are generally tall.
3. Height is often a genetic trait.
4. Wilt Chamberlain had a reputation for having lots of sexual encounters.

So the joke is that Wilt Chamberlain visited the Netherlands once several years ago, had sex with a bunch of the local women, and passed on his genes making the current population taller than average.

This is obviously an exaggeration for comedic effect - in reality, no individual person could cause a noticeable effect in an entire country's gene pool.

Now that I have explained the joke, the appropriate response is to chuckle, laugh, or guffaw depending on your degree of appreciation.
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  #36  
Old 01-08-2015, 03:17 PM
Poysyn Poysyn is offline
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According to the averages, I am taller than the average woman across the board (yay me!). I am mostly Dutch, with some Scots and French thrown in - my daughter is already over 5'2" and is turning 12. We are all hoping she gets to 5'11".
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  #37  
Old 01-08-2015, 03:37 PM
jharvey963 jharvey963 is offline
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Originally Posted by Fridgemagnet View Post
Why are the Dutch so tall?
Um, to keep their heads above water?

J.

Dang! Ninja'd by Askance: "Nah. The Netherlands are below sea level. It's survival of the tallest - all the short ones drowned."

Last edited by jharvey963; 01-08-2015 at 03:40 PM..
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  #38  
Old 01-08-2015, 03:55 PM
johnpost johnpost is offline
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zombie or no

they had to be to get that shovelful of dirt to the top of the dike.
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  #39  
Old 01-08-2015, 03:55 PM
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I know the Dutch are supposed to be the tallest now but for a long time weren't they known to be shorter than most other European men going a few hundred years back? Also I believe tall people on average die earlier so maybe it's an unenviable position to be in, I wonder if this will hold true for the Dutch.
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  #40  
Old 01-08-2015, 05:07 PM
vomit_comet vomit_comet is offline
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Maybe their AG department has mandated doubling up on the growth hormone and steroids their giving to the meat and dairy livestock.
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  #41  
Old 01-09-2015, 05:26 AM
willthekittensurvive? willthekittensurvive? is offline
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Maybe it's not our diet but how we feed our children?

google koekhappen for more info
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  #42  
Old 01-09-2015, 05:50 AM
Wendell Wagner Wendell Wagner is offline
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Little Nemo, what was the point of that nastiness? Yes, I misunderstood your comment. I thought that you were talking about the effect of Chamberlain's visit to the Netherlands on Chamberlain, while you were actually talking about the effect of the visit on the people of the Netherlands. Why did that require you to imply that I have no sense of humor and must be some sort of loathsome monster? Do you think that that sort of nastiness helps things in any way? It's possible to misunderstand you without being a terrible person.
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  #43  
Old 01-09-2015, 08:14 AM
mcgato mcgato is offline
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Huh, I thought this zombie would be gone by now. Since it isn't, I'll add.

I used to work with two different Dutch couples who were doing a stint in the US. They were all very tall. When asked about tall Dutch, one couple said that there was a legend in the Netherlands that a fortified milk was introduced back in 1960s or 1970s that caused the taller people. They joked a bit about it, but kind of acknowledged that there may be some truth to it.
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  #44  
Old 01-11-2015, 05:05 AM
Ms Boods Ms Boods is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mcgato View Post
Huh, I thought this zombie would be gone by now. Since it isn't, I'll add.
I have the same reaction at the weekend when fridgemagnet finally drags his lazy arse out of bed at midday.
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Old 01-11-2015, 06:59 AM
Chief Pedant Chief Pedant is offline
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As with nearly every trait, maximum adult height is a combination of genetic potential and maximum nurturing.

In well-nourished caucasian populations, it's thought that the genetic influence is about 80%. In other populations, it may be substantially less, although still usually over 50%.

Optimal nutrition while young is the most important non-genetic variable, perhaps related to such things as protein in the diet well before puberty.

Where populations have average differences that change faster than is reasonable to attribute to evolution, the difference is probably environmental (in this case, nutrition). Those populations will also tend to plateau as nurturing variables are optimized, and the genetic influence for maximum height becomes the primary driver.

Nice lay summary here.

Last edited by Chief Pedant; 01-11-2015 at 07:00 AM..
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