Entries in Height (12)


Mother's Depression Linked to Child's Shorter Height

iStockphoto/Thinsktock(BALTIMORE) -- Mothers who report having symptoms of depression in the first year after giving birth may be likely to have shorter children, according to a study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in Baltimore, Md., looked at height data for more than 6,500 children during pre-school and kindergarten. They found that kids around age four with mothers who reported having mild or moderate depression during their child's infancy were more than 40 percent more likely to have children with short stature compared to mothers who did not report depressive symptoms.

The study suggests that a link between the mother's depression and the child's height persists several years after the mother's reported depression, according to Pamela Surkan, an assistant professor of public health at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and lead author of the study.

However, for some kids the stunted growth didn't last. The short stature only persisted through age 5 in those with moderate depression, according to the study.

While the study does not indicate when the symptoms of depression began for the women or for how long the symptoms persisted, it's likely that in order for the depression to have affected the child, the mother may have been depressed for months, according to Dr. Kenneth Robbins, clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine, who was not associated with the study.

While the study did not mention what may have caused the link between postpartum depression and stunted growth, Robbins listed a few theories. One reason may be that some children may also be depressed, which can affect the endocrine system and could disrupt the growth hormone, he said.

The study did not confirm that the women were clinically diagnosed with postpartum depression. However, Surkan said it's likely that the numbers may be similar for children whose mothers had a clinical diagnosis.

"There's already very good reasons that mothers who are depressed should seek treatment," said Surkan. "This is one more additional piece of evidence confirming that this is important."

The study also did not track whether the children of even moderately depressed mothers eventually catch up in height after age five.

Nearly 1 out of every 5 mothers in the U.S. has postpartum depression, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Previous studies suggest that postpartum depression is associated with poor fetal growth, language and cognitive delays, and behavioral problems in children, as well as difficulty in mother-child bonding.

"These children already start with a great disadvantage," said Robbins. "What we're seeing is that there's not simply a psychological effect, there's also a physical effect involved here."

Prevention, early detection, and treatment of a mother's depressive symptoms during the first year after giving birth may also prevent delayed growth as well as other developmental and behavioral problems in children, according to Dr. Deanna Robb, director of the parenting program at Beaumont Hospitals in Royal Oak, Mich.

"Because of research, we've learned so much more and we know the value of early identification to make sure we can identify as soon as possible," said Robb.

In some cases, mothers cannot identify symptoms of depression within themselves, so it is up to physicians to make sure women are properly screened. Even after depression is identified, the diagnosis itself makes it difficult for women to seek help, some experts said. But timely care is essential in protecting the family's health, according to experts.

"The hopelessness of depression often leads people not to seek the care that they need," said Robbins. "If [mothers] can make the connection that this is not just affecting them but also affecting their family, it may become motivation to get the proper treatment."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


The Short Answer on Pygmy Height? Genes

Comstock/Thinkstock(PHILADELPHIA) -- Why do we walk on two legs instead of crawling around on all fours?  Why are sons so often taller than their fathers?  And why are pygmies so short?

It is human to ask these questions, and the answers can sometimes be found in the smallest places.

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania announced on Thursday that they may have discovered why pygmies are short -- and the answer lies in the footprints of natural selection in the human genome.

Pygmy tribes are found all over the world and represent the largest group of mobile hunter-gatherers.  Pygmies are unusual in that their average height is a meager 4 feet, 11 inches.  They grow up just like other humans until they become teenagers, at which point they typically fail to undergo a normal growth spurt. Their short stature mirrors their short lifespan, with average life expectancy a mere 17 years.

These tribes have captured the interest of social scientists and biological researchers who, for years, have tried to understand why pygmies diverged from the norm. Theories on their short stature have ranged from suggestions that it was a natural adaption to their difficult lifestyle, to the notion that the thick forest kept them away from sunlight, decreasing vitamin D and leading to low calcium levels and slow bone growth.

More recently, it has been suggested that, due to their short life-span, the bodies of pygmies have evolved to shunt energy originally devoted to growth, in favor of efforts towards early reproduction.

But in the new study, published in the journal PLoS Genetics, researchers for the first time were able to apply new genetic tools to address this question -- and it looks like genes could hold the answer.

The researchers not only found genes linked to pygmy height, but they also found that those same genes are implicated in reproductive hormone activation and immune system function -- providing some explanation to how the trait has survived for 2,800 years.

“The truth is we don’t know where pygmies came from,” said lead researcher Dr. Sarah Tishkoff, associate professor of genetics and biology and the University of Pennsylvania.  “By looking at a million genetic variants across the genome, we finally have a good understanding of their ancestry.”

Tishkoff notes that pygmies’ genomes are a veritable toolbox that allows them to take on their challenging existence. They found that a gene associated with height was also linked to oxytocin, the hormone responsible for nipple stimulation and breast feeding in women, linking it to the theory of early reproduction and species preservation in such short-lived people.

Another gene, linked to bacterial resistance and immune function, also happened to shut down the actions of human growth hormone in the pygmies’ bodies.

“Everything is intricately linked,” Tishkoff said.  “As evolution is tinkering with one of these systems, others are affected as well.”

Tishkoff says she studies pygmy genes because she is interested in the science behind human adaption -- the what, when, where and why of human origins.

And while these findings certainly help us understand why a pygmy is shorter than the average Joe, they also show us how humans have adapted to their environments over time -- information that may help the rest of us adjust appropriately to our own futures.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Five Health Problems Linked to Height

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Height has been linked to a range of health problems, from Alzheimer's and heart disease to multiple cancers.  How stature stacks the odds of getting sick is unclear, but experts say the link between height and health offers new hope for understanding puzzling diseases.

Here are five common conditions linked to height:


A new study suggests taller women have heightened risk for ovarian cancer, a disease that kills nearly 15,000 American women each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  British researchers reviewed data from 47 studies involving more than 100,000 women.  For every 5-centimeter (2-inch) increase in height above the average 5 feet 3, the risk of ovarian cancer rose 7 percent, according to the study published Tuesday in the journal PLoS Medicine.

In July 2011, a study published in the Lancet Oncology found taller women had an increased risk of 10 different cancers, including breast and skin cancer.  And taller men have an increased risk of prostate cancer, according to a 2008 study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

Heart Disease

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., killing 616,000 people per year, according to the CDC.  And unlike cancer, it seems to affect shorter people more than their taller counterparts.  A recent review of 52 studies involving more than three million men and women found shorter people have a 50 percent higher risk of having deadly heart disease than tall people.

"It would be interesting to explore the possibility that short stature is connected with the risk of [coronary heart disease] and [heart attack] through the effect of smaller coronary artery diameter, and that smaller coronary arteries may be occluded earlier in life under similar risk conditions," the authors wrote in their 2010 report published in the European Heart Journal.


Like heart disease, serious strokes are also more common among shorter people.  An Israeli study of more than 10,000 men, 364 of whom died from stroke, linked each 5-centimeter (2-inch) increase in height with a 13 percent increase in fatal stroke risk.  Men who were in the shortest quartile had a 54 percent higher risk of fatal stroke than men in the tallest quartile, according to the 2002 study published in the journal Stroke.

Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia in older people, affecting 5.4 million Americans, according to the Alzheimer's Association.  The risk increases with age and a family history of Alzheimer's, highlighting the disease's genetic roots.  And according to a 2007 study, the risk is also higher for shorter people.

The study, which compared 239 Alzheimer's patients with 341 healthy controls, found men who were taller than 5 feet 10 inches had a 59 percent lower risk of developing the disease than men who were shorter than 5 feet 6 inches.  The study was published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.


While type 2 diabetes is linked to weight, type 1 diabetes -- also called juvenile diabetes -- may be linked to height.

"Taller children generally seem to experience increased risk for development of diabetes mellitus type 1, except perhaps during infancy or early adolescence," according to a 2002 study published in the journal Pediatrics.

The cause of type 1 diabetes is unknown, but it's thought result from an autoimmune attack on the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas.  Although it can occur at any age, it's usually diagnosed in children, teens or young adults.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


New York Man 'Grows' Six Inches Through Surgery

Courtesy Apotheosis(NEW YORK) -- At 5 feet, 6 inches, Apotheosis was shorter than the average American male and very unhappy about it.  So he did something other men who feel short might consider unthinkable: he opted for costly, painful surgeries to make himself "grow" a total of six inches.

"I realized that the world looked at me a certain way, that I didn't look at myself in that certain way," said the 37-year-old New Yorker, who goes by the pseudonym "Apotheosis" in online forums and asked that 20/20 not use his real name.  "I wanted the way I felt about myself and the way the world felt about me to be similar."

Apotheosis is one of a "growing" number of men pursuing limb-lengthening procedures for cosmetic reasons.

Dr. Dror Paley, a renowned osteopathic surgeon at the Paley Institute at St. Mary's Medical Center in West Palm Beach, Fla., performed 650 leg-lengthening surgeries last year.

Most of Paley's patients have severe deformities or dwarfism, but he also sees cosmetic patients.

"The majority who come for cosmetic limb lengthening have what we call, height dysphoria.  They're unhappy with their height," said Paley, adding that therapy has little effect on changing a patient's views.  "It's one of the few psychologic-psychiatric disorders that you can actually cure with the knife."

That is precisely the reason why Akash Shukla, 25, decided to undergo the procedure.  At age 18, the New Jersey man was devastated to find out that his final height would be 4'11½".

"I felt like my short stature was kind of causing a void inside me -- an emptiness in my heart, if you will," he said.

And not everyone was encouraging.

"There are people that have said, 'just accept what God gave you.'  But, in some way, shape or form everybody is trying to alter what God gave them.  If God gave kids crooked teeth, they get braces," said Shukla, who is now almost 5'2" thanks to the surgery.

But limb lengthening is certainly not like straightening teeth. Only a few doctors, including Paley, perform the procedure in the United States.

Surgeons break the leg bone in two and implant a state-of-the-art telescopic rod into the middle of the broken bones which then pulls the bone apart very slowly, about one millimeter a day.  New bone grows around it and tissues like the muscle, the nerves, the arteries, and the skin, regenerate as well.

At about $85,000, the procedure is expensive and the process lengthy.  It takes at least three months to complete it and it requires demanding and excruciating physical therapy.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Malia Obama, at 13, Almost as Tall as President

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- One of President Obama‘s little girls really isn’t so little anymore.

Recent photos of the first family show the Obamas’ elder daughter, Malia, now 13, nearly as tall as her parents, who are both about six feet tall.

The president himself joked about his daughter’s height during a speech last July in Kansas City, Mo.

“Even though she’s five-nine, she’s still my baby,” Obama told the assembled crowd.

But his baby is growing up, and experts say depending on genetics and the timing of puberty, it’s not unusual for some young girls to be noticeably tall.

Genetic factors play a major role in determining height, and since the Obamas are both fairly tall, it’s no surprise that their daughter is, too.

But Dr. Gary Berkovitz, chief of pediatric endocrinology at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine, said it’s difficult to predict a child’s ultimate height.

Getting an idea of how tall a child will be, based on parents’ height, involves a complicated formula, and might not be an accurate predictor, he said.

“The number you come up with can be two inches more or two inches less than actual height,” Berkovitz said.

Another major factor involved in determining height is the timing of puberty.

“If puberty comes early, then there is a growth spurt early and growth stops early, and a child may end up on the short side,” Berkovitz said. “But if puberty comes late, then growth continues.”

Predicting height isn’t easy, because the timing and length of puberty vary widely.

“How tall a girl is at any point isn’t enough to say where she’s going to end up,” Berkovitz said. “A girl who’s very tall at 12 but who’s already had periods for two years is going to stop growing soon, but a girl who’s 14 who’s never had a period will keep growing.”

Estrogen plays an important role in regulating height. Estrogen drives female adolescent sexual development, but also causes the bones to mature and stop growing in both girls and boys.

But pre-pubescent boys shouldn’t worry about being shorter than some girls their age. They’ll catch up.

“One of the big differences between the height of guys compared to women is that puberty comes later in guys,” Berkovitz said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


In Relationships, Does Height Matter?

Michael Kovac/WireImage(NEW YORK) -- A kiss is one of love's small pleasures.  But for basketball legend Shaquille O'Neal and girlfriend Nicole Alexander, a simple smooch requires some serious strain.

At 7 feet 1 inch, O'Neal towers above most women (and men, for that matter).  But Alexander's petite 5 feet 2 inch frame -- two inches shorter than the national average for women -- makes the couple's height difference nothing short of shocking.

"The challenge for a couple that's asymmetric in height is to figure out how to experience collaboration," said Susan Heitler, a couple's therapist in Denver and author of  "When a man's head is above everyone else's, he can begin to feel like it's all about him, like he's in a separate world from her."

Heitler calls it tall man syndrome.  And it means both partners have to make an extra effort to see eye-to-eye -- whether it's figuring out what to have for dinner or the logistics of physical intimacy.

Studies have found that men and women tend to choose partners according to physical traits, such as facial attractiveness, body fat content and, in women, hip to waist ratio.  But for a relationship to last, relative size may be the more important factor.

A study published in July found that marriages were more fulfilling when the wife was thinner than the husband.  And according to Polish anthropologist Boguslaw Pawlowski, the most desirable male-to-female height ratio is 1.09 -- a number achieved by David and Victoria Beckham.

But for guys like O'Neal, a height-matched mate is a tall order.  To fit the 1.09 ratio, she would have to be 6 feet 5 inches.

Short of high heels, there are ways asymmetric couples can level the playing field.

"Height is a metaphor for power," said Heitler, adding that a big heart or a big personality can fill the gap in height. "Sometimes there's a small man in the big body, and the woman is picking up on that gentle soul and kindly person. Or maybe the woman is small but just a powerhouse kind of person with lots of energy and lots of initiative."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Women’s Height Is Linked to Cancer Risk, Say Researchers

Comstock/Thinkstock(OXFORD, England) -- Previous studies have reported that tall people are at a greater risk of cancer -- that increasing height increases risk for not just all cancers combined, but also for a number of individual cancers such as breast, ovary, prostate and large bowel.  Now in a study published in Lancet Oncology, University of Oxford researchers provide an even more detailed look at this association.
The authors reviewed medical data for almost 1.3 million women in the UK who were followed for almost 10 years as part of a large Million Women Study.  They found that for every four-inch increase in height, women’s risk of cancer went up by about 16 percent.  

Looking at 17 different cancers, they found that the risk was linked with height for 10 of them. They were colon cancer with a 25-percent increase per four-inch increase in height; rectal cancer with a 14-percent increase; malignant melanoma with a 32-percent increase; breast cancer with a 17-percent increase; endometrial cancer with a 19-percent increase; ovarian cancer with a 17-percent increase; kidney cancer with a 29-percent increase; cancer of the central nervous system with a 20-percent increase; non-Hodgkin lymphoma with a 21-percent increase; and leukemia with a 26-percent increase.
When the authors re-analyzed previously published studies that included other European, North American, Australasian as well as Asian populations, they saw similar associations between height and cancer risk.  The authors don’t actually know how height is linked to increased cancer risk, but they conclude, "People cannot change their height.  Being taller has been linked to a lower risk of other conditions, such as heart disease.  The importance of our findings is that they may help us to understand how cancers develop.”
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Taller Women More Likely to Have Twins after In Vitro?

Keith Brofsky/Photodisc/Thinkstock(AMSTERDAM) -- Multiple births after in vitro fertilization (IVF) are not uncommon, but a new study released on Monday suggests that if two embryos are implanted in a woman's uterus, taller recipients are more likely to have twins than their shorter counterparts.

Researchers at Vrije Universiteit Medical Centre in Amsterdam reviewed data from over 2,300 Dutch women who underwent a double embryo transfer during their first IVF treatment. They found that women measuring over five feet eight-and-a-half inches in height were almost three times more likely to give birth to twins than shorter women.

The authors of the study, however, could not offer any explanation to their findings.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Pelvis Continues to Widen as You Age; May Result in Larger Waistline

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(CHAPEL HILL, N.C.) -- Most people reach their peak in height by the age of 20, leading to the assumption that skeletal growth also stops around the same time.  But a new study shows that although you might not be getting taller, your pelvis does continue to grow well past your 20s.

Examining CT scans from 246 patients aged between 20 and 79, researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that those in the oldest age group had pelvises that, on average, were almost an inch wider than those belonging to the younger patients.

The findings also show that this increase in pelvis width may also attribute to the expanding waistlines commonly seen as people get older.

"I think it's a fairly common human experience that people find themselves to be wider at the age of 40 or 60 then they were at 20," said Laurence E. Dahners, MD, senior author of the study and a professor in the Department of Orthopaedics in the UNC School of Medicine.  "Until recently we assumed that this was caused simply by an increase in body fat.  Our findings suggest that pelvic growth may contribute to people becoming wider and having a larger waist size as they get older, whether or not they also have an increase in body fat."

The study found that a one-inch increase in pelvic diameter may result in a three-inch increase to one's waist.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Three-Foot Tall Crime Fighter Overcomes Genetic Disorder

Sgt. Troy Guidry(SANTA ANA, Calif.) -- Being three-feet-two-inches tall doesn't stop Ryan Berger, 34, from taking on crime in Santa Ana, Califorinia.

Though he lives with a rare genetic disorder that leaves his bones brittle and requires him to use a motorized wheel chair, Berger has followed in his father's footsteps by joining local law enforcement.

Osteogenesis Imperfecta, a genetic disorder affecting the bones and connective tissue, prevents Berger from physically making arrests, but he does everything else an assistant detective might do -- from questioning suspects to testifying in court.

Berger hails from a "cop family."  His father John Berger is a retired detective for the Santa Ana Police Department and his brother, Mark Berger, currently works with the Anaheim PD.  Though he didn't originally intend to get into law enforcement (he studied computer science), Ryan Berger has been drawn into the family business.

"It keeps me off the streets and out of trouble," Berger jokes.

The Santa Ana PD made a few adjustments to office equipment to accommodate Berger, but otherwise, he does "everything most able-bodied people can do," says his supervisor Sgt. Troy Guidry.  "Mentally is where he's so tough -- his attitude with life.  That's why he fits in so well," Guidry adds.

Osteogenesis Imperfecta, also known as brittle bone disease, affects anywhere from 25,000 to 50,000 Americans, though the majority of cases are not as severe as Berger's.  More than half the cases of are the mild type 1, which includes bone fragility, slightly shorter stature and joints that are prone to dislocating, according to the Osteogenesis Imperfecta Foundation.  Many cases are so mild as to go undiagnosed.

For all types, the disease is characterized by a decrease in the body's production of collagen, which leads to varying levels of fragile bones, joint looseness, and other complications.

For those like Berger, who have type 3, symptoms are more severe and include a very small stature, incredibly fragile bones, and discoloration of the teeth.  Many patients with type 3 have a shortened life expectancy; either from lung problems or to disability-related accidents, says Dr. Jay Shapiro, director of the Bone and Osteogenesis Imperfecta Program at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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