Are Americans shorter because they’re fatter?

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OBJECTIVE: The study compared the height and BMI values of US children and youth by gender in the most recent NHANES surveys (1999-2004) to those of their Dutch counterparts in 1997 in order to gain insights into the different growth patterns.

RESULTS: US children and youth are both shorter and heavier than their Dutch counterparts. US adolescent girls tend to experience an earlier growth spurt than do the Dutch and the velocity of growth of US boys slows down faster after the adolescent growth spurt than does that of their Dutch counterparts. The latter end up being approximately 5.6 cm taller and their median BMI values are 1.9-2.0 less than that of US youth between the ages of 10 and 19. This implies that US boys of the same height at age 19 are 8.8 kg heavier than their Dutch counterparts, and girls of age 13 are 7.2 kg heavier.

DISCUSSION: Some studies link high BMI values in childhood to an earlier onset of adolescence, which in turn has been linked to less growth thereafter.

CONCLUSION: The fast tempo of growth of the US children may be associated with high energy balance, which leads to higher BMI values and which in turn may be associated with less growth during adolescence.

Source: “Are Americans shorter (partly) because they are fatter? A comparison of US and Dutch children’s height and BMI values.” from Ann Hum Biol. 2007 Nov-Dec;34(6):593-606.

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