# Is there a limit to how large a human can become?

Every now and then, you hear about someone who hasn’t left the house in years because they weigh 800, 900, or 1000 lbs or more. Is there a limit as to how large a person can become? Can skin stretch indefinitely? Would it break at some point, like a balloon? How much weight can a human skeleton support? Wouldn’t your internal organs be crushed? Is it possible in theory for someone to be 2000 lbs?

(Whew, that’s a lot o’ questions about fat!)

Well, based upon what we do know, the limits of a human being’s weight and height are already established. Take the heaviest and tallest humans ever and there’s your limit. Until someone heavier and/or taller comes along.

As for if there is a theoretical limit, I do not know, which means I don’t think I was much help…

Yer pal,
Satan

I don’t think the skin would break, since your skin grows with you.

In the case of the exceptionally obese people you sometimes hear about, I beleive they are already unable of movement by themselves, and so don’t use their skeleton for vertical support.

But to answer your question, I don’t know.

La franchise ne consiste pas à dire tout ce que l’on pense, mais à penser tout ce que l’on dit.
H. de Livry

Well, Guiness probably lists the current largest.

There would have to be a limit. Several things come to mind.

The people you hear about are grossly fat; they aren’t “big” in the sense that their skeleton and other organs are larger than normal, they have a lot of fat on a more or less normal sized frame.

As Arnold pointed out these people already can’t walk. Past a certain point they would probably have trouble breathing; the weight of the fat over their chest would prevent it from expanding.

The square/cube law would come into effect at some point and they would overheat. Fat is also an insulator. At some point they would become very succeptable to heatstroke.

All of that tissue is living. It has to get oxygen and nutrients. Again, they would reach the point where their lungs couldn’t provide enough oxygen for their body and they couldn’t eat enough to support it.

There are others, but these are the ones that immediately come to mind. I can’t tell you what the upper limit is, but there obviously is one.

“Drink your coffee! Remember, there are people sleeping in China.”

Dennis Matheson — dennis@mountaindiver.com
Hike, Dive, Ski, Climb — www.mountaindiver.com

OK OK I’ll say it. Isn’t this why whales are marine animals. Their bulk cannot be supported on land. What if these fat people lived in water? OK it’s stupid but it had to be said.

Now Mark, there’s no reason to spoil a perfectly good idle speculation with such self-deprecation.

I think you’ve made a provocative point … by far the largest mammals are sea critters. The largest reptiles are aquatic or semi-aquatic; I don’t know about birds, but certainly emperor penguins are bigger than a lot of flighted birds (ostriches still have them beat, at least dimensionally?).

Take something like pregnancy … vastly more awkward for humans than most mammals. Pregnancy is similar to obesity in a lot of ways … and what kind of exercise do they recognize for pregnant women? Swimming! (I suppose the bike machine would be okay too; I’m just repeating what I’ve heard.) It’s easy on the knees and ankles and all that extra weight is supported.

My real fear is that some over-eater is going to read this post and decide to become semi-aquatic. “Turn up the pool heat and bring me another box of donuts!” Seriously, though, swimming isn’t a great way to burn fat but it’s better than nothing, especially if your ankles and knees are overtaxed by walking.

Perhaps this is what became of the lost Atlantean race.

If there was a limit, Miss, it would only be exceeded when the person ate another cake.

It’s the after dinner mints that’ll kill you.

It’s wafer-thin!

My guess is that eventually the weight of their chest would stop them from being able to breath properly. If the heart didn’t go first.

Remember the wonderful birthday gift Andre the Giant got when he turned 23?
He was told he had lived half his life.
Horizontal or vertical there does appear to be a “too big” point where your organs just can’t support you anymore.

An article in Scientific American addressed this (it was an article about a unified Murphy’s Law, evolution, and Henry Ford). They reasoned that a creature (humans for instance) would only grow to a height where a simple fall would not fracture the skull. They put this at about 12 ft given the current structure of our noggins.

Giantism is the study of people who are very tall.

However, they get to a point where they are at their tallest but their heart keeps growing & growing and then, well.

I don’t see a limit listed here that couldn’t be overcome with simple technology.

The blood could be artifically spiked with nutrients and oxygen, if the lungs can’t handle the job and the eating can’t keep up with the nutritional requirements.

Overheating? Stick 'em in a cooler.

I remember that a magazine (most likely Outside) did an article on Hypothermia they said doctors were treating it by running the blood out and back in again while reheating slowly. So I would think temperature could be readily controlled as long as you were in a hospital setting.

The height limit for humans can be easily expressed in an equasion:

Height Limit= 1/2 (moment of inertia of a piece of buttered toast)

If your kitchen counter is high enough that the toast lands butter side up, you’re going to fall hard.

Rev, the heart gets too big, there is a limit on how big it can get.

I think sofaking read the same article I did. As for technology helping, I don’t think it would. A creatures size is determined by it’s DNA. It would’ve had to evolve with the technology (and been the most fit) to reap any benefits.

When a person gets fat, I didn’t think any organ gets bigger. The size increase is from more fat cells being produced and stored.

Handy, you mention the heart, does it get correspondingly bigger because it has more work to do?