Major correlates of male height: A study of 105 countries

Econ Hum Biol. 2016 May:21:172-95. doi: 10.1016/j.ehb.2016.01.005. Epub 2016 Feb 21.


The purpose of this study is to explore the main correlates of male height in 105 countries in Europe & overseas, Asia, North Africa and Oceania. Actual data on male height are compared with the average consumption of 28 protein sources (FAOSTAT, 1993-2009) and seven socioeconomic indicators (according to the World Bank, the CIA World Factbook and the United Nations). This comparison identified three fundamental types of diets based on rice, wheat and milk, respectively. The consumption of rice dominates in tropical Asia, where it is accompanied by very low total protein and energy intake, and one of the shortest statures in the world (∼162-168cm). Wheat prevails in Muslim countries in North Africa and the Near East, which is where we also observe the highest plant protein consumption in the world and moderately tall statures that do not exceed 174cm. In taller nations, the intake of protein and energy no longer fundamentally rises, but the consumption of plant proteins markedly decreases at the expense of animal proteins, especially those from dairy. Their highest consumption rates can be found in Northern and Central Europe, with the global peak of male height in the Netherlands (184cm). In general, when only the complete data from 72 countries were considered, the consumption of protein from the five most correlated foods (r=0.85) and the human development index (r=0.84) are most strongly associated with tall statures. A notable finding is the low consumption of the most correlated proteins in Muslim oil superpowers and highly developed countries of East Asia, which could explain their lagging behind Europe in terms of physical stature.

Keywords: Asia; Europe; Genetics; Male height; Nutrition.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Anthropometry
  • Birth Rate
  • Body Height*
  • Child Mortality / trends
  • Child, Preschool
  • Developed Countries / statistics & numerical data
  • Developing Countries / statistics & numerical data
  • Diet / statistics & numerical data*
  • Dietary Proteins*
  • Global Health*
  • Gross Domestic Product / statistics & numerical data
  • Haplotypes
  • Health Expenditures / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Milk
  • Oryza
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Triticum
  • Urban Population / statistics & numerical data
  • Young Adult


  • Dietary Proteins