Not a Tall Tale: Vertically-Blessed Women Have Healthier Babies in Developing Countries
Apr 21, 2010 | Filed Under: In the News
Here’s the long and short of it: In developing countries, babies born to taller mothers are healthier and less likely to die before the age of five years, a new study finds.
Good thing this only applies to developing countries (says the woman with a mother who is 5’3″… no offense, Mom!)
At the same time, good nutrition in adolescence and delaying marriage and childbirth appear to lead to taller adults.
I’m about 5’8″, which I assume is considered “taller” — and I ate mostly frozen yogurt and Snickers Bars in my adolescence, got married in my mid-20s and did postpone childbirth, having a kid in my 30s. Not sure how that correlates to those findings, except that I should definitely eat more frozen yogurt and Snickers Bars.
“This is the first time we’re seeing an effect of the mother’s health — as captured through her attained height — being transferred well into the childhood of her offspring,” study author Dr. S. V. Subramanian of the Harvard School of Public Health told Reuters Health.
This study was pretty significant: Subramanian and colleagues looked at health data from 54 developing countries gathered between 1991 and 2008 of nearly 3 million births to more than three quarters of a million women between the ages of 15 and 49.
The mothers were separated into five height categories, ranging from under four feet nine inches to taller than five feet three inches.
Overall, almost 12 percent of the children in the study died before the age of five years. With each drop in height category, the risk of child mortality increased “substantially,” the researchers found.
Children born to the shortest moms had about a 40 percent higher risk of dying during childhood than those born to the tallest mothers. The risk of death among those born to the tallest mothers was about one in 14, compared to about one in seven for those born to the shortest mothers.
More pronounced discrepancies were noted in children’s failure to flourish physically. Each lower height category in the moms was associated with a “substantially higher” risk of their children being underweight and having stunted growth.
Maternal height was the “most important factor” in determining risk of growth failure, twice the effect of a mother’s education and 1.5 times the effect of her income.
“What surprised me the most was the consistency of the findings,” Subramanian said.
Whether the results would be the same in wealthier nations is unclear, but Subramanian said it was unlikely given the different environments and expensive technology available in richer countries. If researchers looked at other effects, such as mental functioning, they might find similarities, he said. (Meaning my short mom doomed me to be a mental MIDGET? Get it…? Ha, haaaaa! *Ahem*)