Diet can influence a person's height, but only during childhood -- until about 2 years of age. From the age of 2 to 12 years, stunted growth can be modified in some children, but not all of them. There is no scientific data currently available to suggest that it's possible to increase an adult's height through diet.
When a woman is pregnant, her diet may affect the height of her children. A study published in the "Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health" investigated the influence of gestational diet on height, sitting height and leg length of offspring. The researchers monitored more than 6,600 single births and found that the mothers' intake of magnesium, iron and Vitamin C were most often associated with increased height. However, the study stated that these findings, on their own, are not sufficient to draw defensible conclusions between maternal diet and the height of offspring.
Caloric Intake and Height
Caloric intake from birth to about 2 years of age will influence the height of children. An article appearing in "The Journal of Nutrition" monitored diet and socio-economic parameters in more than 2,000 Filipino children. The researcher found that each additional 100 calories in the diet was associated with an increased height of 0.13 inches in boys and slightly less in girls. The study concluded that beyond 2 years, neither diet nor socio-economic status had any significant impact on the height of children.
Malnutrition in children younger than 2 years old will cause stunted growth in comparison with their parents and well-fed siblings, but malnourished children can "catch up" with proper nutrition. A study included in "The Journal of Nutrition" monitored the height of 2,000 Filipino children, aged 2 to 12 years, from poor environments. The researcher found that about 63 percent were classified as "stunted" based on height-for-age (HAZ) measurements set by the World Health Organization. With increased caloric and vitamin intake, 30 percent were no longer stunted by the age of 8.5 years, and 32.5 percent were no longer stunted at 12 years old.
Breastfeeding has the greatest impact on the cognitive and physical development of infants in their first year. A study in the "Archives of Pediatrics" examined the effects of breastfeeding on the height and weight of 6,669 infants from six countries from 1997 through 2003. The study found that breastfeeding alone for the first four months and introduction of solid foods by six months contributed to an increase in height of children. The study concluded that child populations across countries will grow at similar rates when fed adequately.
- “Archives of Pediatrics”; WHO Growth Standards for Infants and Young Children; M. de Onis, et al.; January 2009
- “The Journal of Nutrition”; Filipino Children Exhibit Catch-Up Growth from Age 2 to 12 Years; L. Adair; June 1999
- “The Journal of Nutrition”; The Association between Diet and Height in the Postinfancy Period Changes with Age and Socioeconomic Status in Filipino Youths; C. Eckhardt, et al.; September 2005
- “Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health”; Maternal Diet in Pregnancy and Offspring Height, Sitting Height, and Leg Length; S. Leary, et al.; June 2005