It is unclear whether adolescent obesity is associated with limited linear growth. We assessed this association in a nationwide sample of adolescents.
We conducted a population-based, study of 2,785,227 Israeli adolescents (60% males) who were examined before military service since 1967 through 2015. Height and weight were measured along with assessment of medical status at age 17.4 ± 0.4 years. The secular trend of height was plotted using United States Center for Disease Control (US CDC) age- and sex-adjusted BMI percentile groups. We accounted for health status at enrollment and computed the expected height based on parental data that was available for 512,978 examinees.
Over five decades, the mean height increased by 3.1 cm among males, but remained unchanged among females. Among males, gain in height was attained predominantly during the first 25 years and has stabilized since. Males with obesity were taller than their normal-weight and underweight counterparts. Underweight girls had a prominent increase in mean height during the first two decades, exceeding the mean height of their counterparts with obesity by over 2 cm. There was a gradual decrease in the difference between measured and expected height in males and females regardless of BMI status, with the exception of the underweight females who achieved consistently higher stature than expected (≥3 cm).
During five decades, excessive BMI was not a limiting factor in growth potential compared with normal BMI in both sexes. The only group that exceeded its growth potential, when accounting for expected mid-parental height, were underweight females with unimpaired health.
Subscribe to Journal
Get full journal access for 1 year
only $64.42 per issue
All prices are NET prices.
VAT will be added later in the checkout.
Rent or Buy article
Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.
All prices are NET prices.
Wood AR, Tonu E, Jian Y, Vedantam S, Pers TH, Gustafsson S, et al. Defining the role of common variation in the genomic and biological architecture of adult human height. Nat Genet. 2014;46:1173–86.
Lello L, Avery SG, Tellier L, Vazquez AI, de los Campos G, Hsu SDH. Accurate genomic prediction of human height. Genetics. 2018;10:477–97.
Perkins JM, Subramanian SV, Davey Smith G, Özaltin E. Adult height, nutrition, and population health. Nutr Rev. 2016;74:149–65.
Prendergast AJ, Humphrey JH. The stunting syndrome in developing countries. Paediatr Int Child Health. 2014;34:250–65.
Perola M. Genetics of human stature: lessons from genome-wide association studies. Horm Res Paediatr. 2011;76:10–11.
Hwang AE, Mack TM, Hamilton AS, Gauderman WJ, Bernstein L, Cockburn MG, et al. Childhood infections and adult height in monozygotic twin pairs. Am J Epidemiol. 2013;178:551–8.
Rogol AD, Clark PA, Roemmich JN. Growth and pubertal development in children and adolescents: effects of diet and physical activity. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000;72(2 Suppl):521S–8S.
NCD Risk Factor Collaboration (NCD-RisC. A century of trends in adult human height. eLife. 2016;5:e13410.
Schönbeck Y, Talma H, van Dommelen P, Bakker B, Buitendijk SE, HiraSing RA, et al. The world’s tallest nation has stopped growing taller: the height of Dutch children from 1955 to 2009. Pediatr Res. 2013;73:371–7.
Komlos J, Baur M. From the tallest to (one of) the fattest: the enigmatic fate of the American population in the 20th century. Econ Hum Biol. 2004;2:57–74.
Twig G, Yaniv G, Levine H, Leiba A, Goldberger N, Derazne E, et al. Body-mass index in 2.3 million adolescents and cardiovascular death in adulthood. N Engl J Med. 2016;374:2430–40.
Kuczmarski RJ, Ogden CL, Guo SS, Grummer-Strawn LM, Flegal KM, Mei Z, et al. 2000 CDC growth charts for the United States: methods and development. Vital Health Stat 11. 2002;2002:1–190.
Goldstein A, Haelyon U, Krolik E, Sack J. Comparison of body weight and height of Israeli schoolchildren with the Tanner and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention growth charts. Pediatrics. 2001;108:E108.
Whitlock EP, Williams SB, Gold R, Smith PR, Shipman SA. Screening and interventions for childhood overweight: a summary of evidence for the US Preventive Services Task Force. Pediatrics. 2010;116:e125–144.
Twig G, Tirosh A, Leiba A, Levine H, Ben-Ami Shor D, Derazne E, et al. BMI at age 17 years and diabetes mortality in midlife: a nationwide cohort of 2.3 million adolescents. Diabetes Care. 2016;39:1996–2003.
Pinhas-Hamiel O, Reichman B, Shina A, Derazne E, Tzur D, Yifrach D, et al. Sex differences in the impact of thinness, overweight, obesity, and parental height on adolescent height. J Adolesc Health. 2017;61:233–9.
Tanner JM, Goldstein H, Whitehouse RH. Standards for children’s height at age 2 to 9 years allowing for height of parents. Arch Dis Child. 1970;45:819.
Rozin O. Food, identity, and nation-building in Israel’s formative years. Israel Studies Forum. 2006;21:52–80.
Akachi Y, Canning D. Inferring the economic standard of living and health from cohort height: evidence from modern populations in developing countries. Econ Hum Biol. 2015;19:114–28.
Grasgruber P, Cacek J, Kalina T, Sebera M. The role of nutrition and genetics as key determinants of the positive height trend. Econ Hum Biol. 2014;15:81–100.
Komlos J, Lauderdale BE. The mysterious trend in American heights in the 20th century. Ann Hum Biol. 2007;34:206–15.
Larnkaer A, Attrup Schrøder S, Schmidt IM, Hørby Jørgensen M, Fleischer Michaelsen K. Secular change in adult stature has come to a halt in northern Europe and Italy. Acta Paediatr. 2006;95:754–5.
Marck A, Antero J, Berthelot G, Saulière G, Jancovici JM, Masson-Delmotte V, et al. Are we reaching the limits of Homo sapiens? Front Physiol. 2017;8:812.
Hamilton ME. Sexual dimorphism in skeletal samples. In: Hall RL, editor. Sexual dimorphism in Homo sapiens: a question of size. New York: Praeger; 1982. p. 107–164.
Bielicki T, Charzewski J. Sex differences in the magnitude of statural gains of offspring over parents. Hum Biol. 1977;49:265–77.
Hall RL. Sexual dimorphism for size in seven nineteenth century northwest coast populations. Hum Biol. 1978;50:159–71.
Hewitt D, Wwestropp CK, Acheson RM. Oxford child health survey; effect of childish ailments on skeletal development. Br J Prev Soc Med. 1955;9:179–86.
Kuh DL, Power C, Rodgers B. Secular trends in social class and sex differences in adult height. Int J Epidemiol. 1991;20:1001–9.
Greulich WW. Some secular changes in the growth of American-born and native Japanese children. Am J Phys Anthropol. 1976;45(3 pt. 2):553–68.
Brundtland GH, Liestøl K, Walløe L. Height, weight and menarcheal age of Oslo schoolchildren during the last 60 years. Ann Hum Biol. 1980;7:307–22.
Farooqi IS, Keogh JM, Yeo GS, Lank EJ, Cheetham T, O’Rahilly S. Clinical spectrum of obesity and mutations in the melanocortin 4 receptor gene. N Engl J Med. 2003;348:1085–95.
Fennoy I. Effect of obesity on linear growth. Curr Opin Endocrinol Diabetes Obes. 2013;20:44–9.
Johnson W, Stovitz SD, Choh AC, Czerwinski SA, Towne B, Demerath EW. Patterns of linear growth and skeletal maturation from birth to 18 years of age in overweight young adults. Int J Obes (Lond). 2012;36:535–41.
Helm P, Münster K, Schmidt L. Recalled menarche in relation to infertility and adult weight and height. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 1995;74:718–22.
Sharma K, Talwar I, Sharma N. Age at menarche in relation to adult body size and physique. Ann Hum Biol. 1988;15:431–4.
Lehmann A, Floris J, Woitek U, Rühli FJ, Staub K. Temporal trends, regional variation and socio-economic differences in height, BMI and body proportions among German conscripts, 1956-2010. Public Health Nutr. 2017;20:391–403.
Hedges DW, Berrett AN, Erickson LD, Brown BL, Gale SD. Association between infection burden and adult height. Econ Hum Biol. 2017;27(Pt A):275–80.
Sommer A, Twig G. The impact of childhood and adolescent obesity on cardiovascular risk in adulthood: a systematic review. Curr Diab Rep. 2018;18:91.
Marshall WA, Tanner JM. Variations in the pattern of pubertal changes in boys. Arch Dis Child. 1970;45:13–23.
Marshall WA, Tanner JM. Variations in the pattern of pubertal changes in girls. Arch Dis Child. 1969;44:291–303.
Twig G, Reichman B, Afek A, Derazne E, Hamiel U, Furer A, et al. Severe obesity and cardio-metabolic comorbidities: a nationwide study of 2.8 million adolescents. Int J Obes (Lond). 2018. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41366-018-0213-z.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Publisher’s note: Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Geva, N., Pinhas-Hamiel, O., Reichman, B. et al. The association between obesity and secular trend of stature: a nationwide study of 2.8 million adolescents over five decades. Int J Obes 43, 1932–1939 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41366-019-0371-7