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Americans Gaining Height and Weight

Researches have documented that Americans have been gaining in height and weight substantially over the past 50 years. Men's average height increased from 5 feet 8 inches in the early 1960s to 5 feet 9 1/2 inches in 1999-2002. In 1960-62, the average man weighed 166.3 pounds. By 1999-2002, the average reached 191 pounds.

This phenomenon of the last three to four generations gaining in height and weight is not limited to North Americans and has been documented in all other industrialized and developing countries as well. Combine these statistics with the increased longevity of people in these countries and one may be inclined to conclude that the increase in size of recent generations is indicative of good health and improved genetics. This conclusion, however, may be seriously flawed as is discussed in a 2008 article written by Thomas T. Samaras and Jonn Desnoes (Increasing Human Body Size and Its Physical and Environmental Ramifications. Townsend Letter: Feb/Mar 2008).

In this article, the authors equate the gaining height and weight of current and future generations to that of the dinosaurs, which are a perfect example for the age old saying that “big is not always better”. In fact, what the authors discuss is that the increase in height and weight is directly corresponding to a decline in human health that is related to “…chemical pollution of our food supply and the over-consumption of calories and protein, in particular, growth hormone-contaminated dairy and beef protein”.

But if gaining height and weight in Americans and other industrialized societies is an indication of declining health, then how do we explain increasing longevity in these same people. Again, Thomas T. Samaras and Jonn Desnoes hypothesis that increasing longevity is not related necessarily to increasing health, but is associated directly with “…improved sanitation, followed by antibiotics, immunization, drugs, improved surgical and medical skills, and advanced diagnostic medical technology”. It is these factors they state are responsible for increased longevity observed in people of all sizes, not just the tall and large.