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.

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

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.

Cite? I know the first part is true, but I can’t for the life of me imagine the second part.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


A thread from last March on the same subject.

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.

Here’s an interesting article on historic and comparative heights, including some educated guesses on the reasons for height differences.

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!

I thought this as well. But the linked New Yorker article claims it isn’t so:

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.

I for one welcome our new…

Oh, never mind.

There’s a lot of speculation (but no definitive answer) here:


“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?

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?

I think it’s the shoes. Those clog things are thicker than Reboks.


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.

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.