June 22, 2009

German children taller than 30 years ago

Children in Germany are taller than they were 30 years ago, but the height increase observed during the last century has become slower, researchers said.

The study, published in Deutsches Arzteblatt International, found the rate of growth during childhood in Germany has increased, but the trend is less marked after puberty.

Bettina Gohlke and Joachim Woelfle of the University of Bonn said that 7- to 10-year-olds were 1 cm to 1.5 cm taller -- about three-quarters of an inch -- than in the 1970s, whereas length at birth only slightly increased between 1984 and 1997, by 0.2 cm.

The researchers also found that there has been little change in physical maturation. Therefore, the age of a young women's first menstruation has remained constant at about 13 years since the early 1960s.

The correlation between growth and socioeconomic status has been well established. For this reason, body growth is accepted as an important indicator of the socioeconomic conditions of a society.

However, the biological mechanism through which this acts is still unknown.