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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Male height in Europe

A new paper in the Economics & Human Biology journal argues that male height in Europe is mostly determined by nutrition and genetics. That's not exactly earth shattering news. However, the authors also point out that Y-chromosome haplogroup I-M170 shows a strong correlation with the highest average stature on the continent, and speculate that the link between the two might be Upper Paleolithic hunter-gatherer ancestry:

The average height of 45 national samples used in our study was 178.3 cm (median 178.5 cm). The average of 42 European countries was 178.3 cm (median 178.4 cm). When weighted by population size, the average height of a young European male can be estimated at 177.6 cm. The geographical comparison of European samples (Fig. 1) shows that above average stature (178+ cm) is typical for Northern/Central Europe and the Western Balkans (the area of the Dinaric Alps). This agrees with observations of 20th century anthropologists (Coon, 1939; Lundman 1977). At present, the tallest nation in Europe (and also in the world) are the Dutch (average male height 183.8 cm), followed by Montenegrins (183.2 cm) and possibly Bosnians (182.5 cm) (Table 1). In contrast with these high values, the shortest men in Europe can be found in Turkey (173.6 cm), Portugal (173.9 cm), Cyprus (174.6 cm) and in economically underdeveloped nations of the Balkans and former Soviet Union (mainly Albania, Moldova, and the Caucasian republics).


The trend of increasing height has already stopped in Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Slovakia and Germany. In Norway, military statistics date its cessation to late 1980s.


In contrast, the fastest pace of the height increase (≥1 cm/decade) can be observed in Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Latvia, Belarus, Poland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Greece, Turkey and at least in the southern parts of Italy.


Although the documented differences in male stature in European nations can largely be explained by nutrition and other exogenous factors, it is remarkable that the picture in Fig. 1 strikingly resembles the distribution of Y haplogroup I-M170 (Fig. 10a). Apart from a regional anomaly in Sardinia (sub-branch I2a1a-M26), this male genetic lineage has two frequency peaks, from which one is located in Scandinavia and northern Germany (I1-M253 and I2a2-M436), and the second one in the Dinaric Alps in Bosnia and Herzegovina (I2a1b-M423)16. In other words, these are exactly the regions that are characterized by unusual tallness. The correlation between the frequency of I-M170 and male height in 43 European countries (including USA) is indeed highly statistically significant (r = 0.65; p < 0.001) (Fig. 11a, Table 4). Furthermore, frequencies of Paleolithic Y haplogroups in Northeastern Europe are improbably low, being distorted by the genetic drift of N1c-M46, a paternal marker of Ugrofinian hunter-gatherers. After the exclusion of N1c-M46 from the genetic profile of the Baltic states and Finland, the r-value would further slightly rise to 0.67 (p < 0.001). These relationships strongly suggest that extraordinary predispositions for tallness were already present in the Upper Paleolithic groups that had once brought this lineage from the Near East to Europe.


Grasgruber et al., The role of nutrition and genetics as key determinants of the positive height trend, Economics & Human Biology, available online 7 August 2014, DOI: 10.1016/j.ehb.2014.07.002


Titane said...

My sons (mixed French Canadian and Italian) complain about their lack of height - and they were well fed. Is there a link with % Neanderthal?

Davidski said...

Which part?

Linking unusually high average height with haplogroup I-M170 and Upper Paleolithic ancestry in Europe is probably wrong anyway, because the high frequencies of I in the Balkans are most likely due to founder effect during the medieval period as a result of Slavic migrations into the Balkans from what is now eastern Poland and western Ukraine.

Krefter said...

"Linking unusually high average height with haplogroup I-M170 and Upper Paleolithic ancestry in Europe is probably wrong anyway"

I agree, except maybe it's not overall WHG ancestry, but something with the Y Chromosome. This paper showed that genetics is not the main factor. I mean the fact all Europeans grew many inches since the industrial revolution and most non-western people today are as tall as Europeans were before the industrial revolution is great evidence.

Besides they mentioned that Mesolithic Europeans were very very short, BTW Loschbour was 5'3 and that was the average height for Mesolithic west Europeans, La Brana-1 was 5'7 though.

The crazy tall height of Yugoslavians compared to neighboring people is very surprising, I wish there were older statistics because it might prove it's in their genes. Most of the Yugoslavians I know are over 6'3.

It can confidentially be said now that the tallest people in the world are Yugoslavians, central Europeans, and people around the Baltic sea(Norse, Balts, Estonians).

British and Irish seem to be kind of short. The average height of a man from medieval England was about 5'6 while the average height of a man from medieval Scandinavia was about 5'8, and today there is still an about 2 inch difference.

I know statistics show west Asians are in the 5'6-5'9 range, but most of the ones I have seen who grew up in America are as tall as European Americans, or at least it's hard to tell the difference. Pakistani Americans also tend to be as tall as European Americans, but Indians especially from more southern parts of India are notably shorter.

Men straight from Bangladesh are very short and stocky, I would guess they're around 5'5 on average, some are even as short as 5'0(as tall as 12-13 year old Americans), and their women are oftenly under 5ft. At 6'2 I'm like a giant to them, and they treat me with extra respect because of it. East Asians and Latinos tend to also be pretty short. The more Amerindian looking Latinos tend to be short and stocky and the Spanish looking ones tend to be the same height and body build as European Americans.

African Americans seem to have alot of diversity in height. Many are short aka under 5'10 and many are tall aka above 6'2, and statistics show on average they are almost exactly as tall as European Americans.

Most people in the world genetically are probably destined on average to be the same height. Non-western immigrants who are in the 5'6-5'8 range, but have many more ~6ft people than we have ~6'5 people.

How tall are Australian Aboriginals?

Davidski said...

Australian Aboriginals are shorter than Anglo Australians, but comparable to Southern Europeans. Very few are over 6'3", because I've never seen one taller than me.

Fanty said...

So, ok, the Agenda that Paleo or Mesolithic europeans has been unusual big is all pre 1990 bogus.

Some German museums still claim it.

I might tell them.

Fanty said...

I even read an article in a newspaper 4 month ago where the anthropologan was quoted about how superbig pre-neolithic Europeans had been.

Another old school bogus scientists of course.

Because Mr barack Obama claims they are unusualy small.

Titane said...

It cannot be linked to the Y chromosome - my brother 5'11 has two daughters, one 5'2 like her mother, the other 6ft tall... Their brother is 5'10.
My homozygotous twins are not the same height and it all happened before birth. One weighed more than a pound more than his brother and was shorter by about 1 cm at birth. It has translated to being 5'7 and 1/2 and 5'9 with a mother at 5'2 and a father at 5'7.

Davidski said...

I think I got really tall by drinking milk iced coffee as a kid, even though at the time I heard that coffee stunts growth.

Does that help anyone?

Unknown said...

the 'dianric alps' study was made in Croatia, dalmatian towns, not BiH

War Lord said...

"the 'dianric alps' study was made in Croatia, dalmatian towns, not BiH"

No. It included Herzegovina. Trebinje is explicitly mentioned as a town, where these measurements were made.

Fanty said...

Read an article in a GErman newspaper about an experiment of the University of Exeter who checked the DNA of 250.000 Europeans about how DNA affect height.

It claims height deptends to 80% on DNA and to 20% on diet and envoirement.

It says that 700 variants in 400 regions of the genome apear to affect height.

SargonPrimaris said...

This is 100% wrong. The average Italian male is not shorter than 5'9. The average Italian male in Southern Italy is 5'8 but 42% of the ethnic Italian population lives in Tuscany and all the regions above it, the real figure is 51% of Italians live in those regions but I am assuming 5 million of them are non-italian immigrants and that is probably a overly high estimate for that 5 million.

The average Italian male over all is 5'9-5'9 1/2

It is also wrong for spain.

Elizabeth J. Neal said...

However, the authors also point out that Y-chromosome haplogroup I-M170 shows a strong correlation with the highest average stature on the continent, and speculate that the link between the two might be Upper Paleolithic hunter-gatherer ancestry: shoe lifts for men

Unknown said...

The guy who said Aboriginals are comparable to Southern Europeans are wrong. I've lived in both the UK and Australia most of the southern immigrants are as tall as the Anglos. Anglos are not as tall as Germans or Scandianvians. Anglos are relatively short for northern europeans.