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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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  #3  
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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  #4  
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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Quote:
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 online now
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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 online now
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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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Quote:
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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