Decomposing stature into its major components is proving to be a useful strategy to assess the antecedents of disease, morbidity and death in adulthood. Human leg length (femur + tibia), sitting height (trunk length + head length) and their proportions, for example, (leg length/stature), or the sitting height ratio (sitting height/stature x 100), among others) are associated with epidemiological risk for overweight (fatness), coronary heart disease, diabetes, liver dysfunction and certain cancers. There is also wide support for the use of relative leg length as an indicator of the quality of the environment for growth during infancy, childhood and the juvenile years of development. Human beings follow a cephalo-caudal gradient of growth, the pattern of growth common to all mammals. A special feature of the human pattern is that between birth and puberty the legs grow relatively faster than other post-cranial body segments. For groups of children and youth, short stature due to relatively short legs (i.e., a high sitting height ratio) is generally a marker of an adverse environment. The development of human body proportions is the product of environmental x genomic interactions, although few if any specific genes are known. The HOXd and the short stature homeobox-containing gene (SHOX) are genomic regions that may be relevant to human body proportions. For example, one of the SHOX related disorders is Turner syndrome. However, research with non-pathological populations indicates that the environment is a more powerful force influencing leg length and body proportions than genes. Leg length and proportion are important in the perception of human beauty, which is often considered a sign of health and fertility.
Keywords: beauty; body proportions; disease risk; health; leg length.