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Foods That Stunt Your Growth
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March 20, 2011, last updated April 18, 2013

By Louise Carr, Associate Editor
and Featured Columnist



Height matters. Being tall, in fact, can powerfully affect your
prospects for jobs, sports and even love. Growing tall,
strong and healthy is essential for you, your children and
your children’s children. Unlike weight, which we can gain
and lose throughout our life, height is pretty much fixed
once we’re out of our growing stage. But that doesn't mean
we can't do something about it while we're still young
enough. Diet helps. In fact, according to the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention, the average American is one
inch taller now than in 1960.

But across the country, and especially in the developing
world, stunted growth is a problem. People associate being
tall with being dominant mentally and in control. All other
things being equal, we like our leaders to be tall and
towering.  As many a man can tell you, being short is a
handicap not only in politics but in dating and in life. He's
nice, he's ambitious, he's smart but...
he's so short! How do
we grow tall? Are there foods that stop us from reaching our
full height? What foods stunt our growth? Does the diet our
children eat stunt their growth?

[Update:

Height Has Been Linked to Life Expectancy

A British study in has linked the height you attain as a child
with the likelihood that you will die.  The 2013 study, entitled
"Childhood Stunting and Mortality Between 36 and 64 Years:
The British 1946 Birth Cohort Study" found that measuring
the maximum height a child attains at the age of six can
predict his or her mortality at the age of 36. Overall, chilldren
who fell in the lowest 10% of their peers in terms of height
were more than twice as likely to die early as compared to
their taller peers.]


Growth charts for children based on measurements taken
from a range of countries let us know if our children are
short for their age. Could junk food keep our kids at the
wrong end of the chart? How about coffee, or candy? We’ve
checked out the evidence to see how these and other foods
measure up.

Does Coffee Stunt Your Growth?

It’s commonly said that your morning dose of caffeine stunts
your growth. But is it true - does coffee interfere with your
height? According to BabyCenter and other medical experts,
coffee doesn’t affect growth.

Children consuming caffeine is undesirable in other ways,
but there is no evidence that coffee or other caffeinated
drinks stunt growth. While the United States doesn’t have
guidelines for children’s caffeine consumption, Canada
recommends kids aged four to six have no more than 45mg
a day (a 12-ounce coke has between 34 to 72 mg of
caffeine.)

What About Soda, Does it Stunt Your Growth?


























If coffee isn’t going to make you shorter, do caffeinated
drinks pose a growth risk? Soda such as coca cola and other
carbonated drinks contain phosphorous. Phosphorous is a
useful mineral for healthy development but too much can
affect the level of calcium in our body, which can affect
growth. Experts recommend a balance of calcium and
phosphorous in the body. Too much phosphorus and not
enough calcium, and the body will start to use the calcium it
has stored in the bones. According to the University of
Maryland Medical Center, coke has as much as 500mg more
phosphorous than calcium. And a 2003 study from the
University of Ulster, Northern Ireland found the more
carbonated sodas teenage girls drank, the lower their bone
mass density. While a can or two is not going to be a
problem, excessive amounts of soda could stunt your bone
growth.

Something else to consider is that coffee with sugar,
caffeinated drinks, coke and sodas are packed with empty
calories which fill children up without giving any nutrition. If
children don’t enjoy a nutritious diet, their growth could be
affected.

Does Too Much Carbohydrate Stunt Growth?

Carbohydrate is important in a healthy diet but excessive
amounts of this energy-building nutrient could slow down
growth. Carbohydrates raise insulin levels in the body and
prevent it from effectively using human growth hormone.
People in Asian countries, where the staple diet has
traditionally been built around rice, are on average shorter
than in countries like the United States.

Why You Need Protein

A diet rich in protein is important for growth. Protein is the
essential food that makes you taller. In fact, a 2008 study
from the International Centre for Diarrheal Disease
Research, Dhaka, Bangladesh found that children fed a high-
protein diet when recovering from shigellosis, a bacterial
infection, showed a significant increase in height compared
to children who were fed the standard protein diet.

However, it’s not advisable to pump your child with protein
in the hope they’ll grow to NBA-star height. Moderation and
balance are key – feed your children a mix of proteins,
carbohydrates, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals and you’ll
see them thrive.

Growth and Socioeconomic Status

Inadequate food intake and the lack of a healthy diet are
two reasons for stunted growth in children, particularly in
the developing world. Body growth, including height-for-
age, is widely accepted by policymakers and development
agencies as an indicator of the socioeconomic conditions of a
country or society. Taller children, on average, indicate a
society that’s better off in terms of food access and safety,
healthcare provision and hygiene.

According to authors of research from the London School of
Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, 2008, if existing maternal and
child nutrition strategies were implemented in poorer
countries – particularly sub-Saharan Africa and south-central
Asia – cases of stunted growth in children under three years
old could be cut by a third and child deaths could be reduced
by up to 25 percent.

Do Food Allergies Stunt Growth?

A 2010 study from Jeanne de Flandre Hospital in Lille, France
found children with food allergies were on average smaller
than children without allergies, although they weren’t
abnormally short for their age. And in a 2004 study from the
University of Bristol, England, children with antibodies in the
blood that indicate a high probability of undetected or
subclinical celiac disease – a condition that causes wheat
allergy –
were one inch shorter and 2.2lb lighter than those
who did not.

Researchers wonder if this lack of growth is due to the
children’s restricted diet (no cows’ milk, nuts, eggs or
wheat, etc) as a result of
allergies. This stresses the
importance of a healthy diet for all children – allergies or not.
(Read more on whether
cow's milk is dangerous for your
health).



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