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Humans have been relatively short for thousands of years

Until around 150 years ago, humans were relatively short – but our recent growth spurt may have more to do with social factors than dietary ones



Humans



2 December 2021

A man measures a woman’s height

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For most of our history, humans have been short, a study has found. Until around 150 years ago, few people grew taller than 170 centimetres – not even the most privileged individuals, who had ready access to food. This discovery adds to growing evidence that stunting – being unusually short – isn’t a wholly reliable indicator of malnutrition. Instead of being a sign of a good diet, growing taller may instead reflect competition for dominance in some societies.

Christiane Scheffler at the University of Potsdam and paediatrician …

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