Quora , CONTRIBUTOR
Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.
(Photo: CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images)
How can you increase your height? originally appeared on Quora: the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.
Answer by Bart Loews on Quora:
A primer on your height & what you can do about it:
Your height is determined between 60%-85% by your genetics. The remainder of that is environmental, primarily nutrition . If you’re malnourished during your growing years you won’t reach your full potential. If you get enough nutrition you’ll likely reach your genetically predetermined height, possibly a little taller.
There is some indication that getting enough protein through your developmental years can add to your height positively. In Japan after the war, the population had access to more fish protein and the average height of the country increased three inches . Denmark has become one of the tallest countries in the world, and its rise in height is strongly correlated to its wealth per capita . The most likely takeaway here is that people who can afford to eat, and eat well, will be taller over generations. It’s easy to make this connection between these two long term correlations. Nutrition can slowly cause an increase in height between generations. It’s no guarantee that you’ll be taller through eating, but proper nutrition through your formative years can add a bit onto your genetics. A good, balanced diet of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates (eat food, not too much, mostly plants) and you’ll do fine.
They’ve been doing some research on fraternal twins to try to determine what the specific gene is that determines height. The reason that they’re looking at fraternal twins rather than identical twins is that their exact DNA is different but most of the environmental factors are the same (what the mother ate while they were pregnant, probably how they were treated after they were born, etc). They can then compare the genomes of the twins after they reach their height and see what is different between them. They do this for thousands of fraternal twin pairs to determine which parts of their genomes are different. As of writing this they think it’s partly in the X chromosome and chromosomes 7, 8, and 20. Scientists haven’t narrowed it down entirely, as genes are pretty complex and it’s not as simple as it’s explained in your general science classes with recessive genes and dominant genes .
As you grow up, your bones get longer. Everyone has Epiphyseal plates at the ends of their bones. As you grow, these plates are added onto. When you go through growth spurts, particularly puberty, they are added onto rather quickly. Some people experience growing pains in their bones as they expand. When you’re done growing (mostly by the time you’re 18-25), your bones ossify, the epiphyseal plates seal themselves, and you stop growing taller and longer. At that point you’re done. No more growing. That’s it.
How do I know if my Epiphyseal plates have sealed?
I’m going to quote this answer:
When looking at an x-ray of your limbs, look for the line between the diaphysis Visit Here (shaft of the long bone) and epiphysis (rounded articulation/ where the joint lies). Here is a picture of the epiphyseal plates of the distal tibia and fibula in an ankle:
You can easily see the dark line above both “ankles” or malleoli. These are the epiphyseal plates you are looking for. Here is a picture when the “growth plates” are “sealed”:
You can see the white line on both sides of the knee, known as an epiphyseal scar. The white line means the area is more dense, whereas the dark line from before means it is the less dense, growing cartilaginous tissue. If the white line exists, it means the epiphyseal plate has “closed” and no additional bone will grow from the cartilage.
Your height actually decreases slightly through the day. In between your spinal discs there are fluid sacs. When you stand up, your head and shoulders put axial pressure on your spine and cause these sacs to compress. You can shrink by as much as 1% of your height this way (this will not accumulate beyond 1%, 1% is the most you will lose, even by standing up for a month straight) .
Simply lying down will allow them to expand again.
This isn’t a big deal, though there are several sites out there than claim otherwise and claim that they can create extra space between your spinal bones. Additionally, there are claims that stretching and hanging can increase your height. This is a quarter true. Hanging and stretching can reverse the compression, making you slightly taller until your spine compresses again. Spinal compression can reduce your height temporarily by 1%. In tall people this can be as much as a half inch. Stretching and hanging and lying down can restore this 1%, but won’t make you taller .
For this same reason, astronauts can be as much as 2″ taller in space. There’s not enough gravity putting axial pressure against their spine to compress it. Additionally, the fluid pressure in the sacs can exceed any forces pressing against them allowing astronauts to expand past that 1%. When they come back to earth, they return to their normal height over the course of months .
Your height and sports
Because of the growth plates, and the fact that your spine can compress, people got the idea that weightlifting and high impact sports could cause you to not grow as much. They’re not quite right. There has been no evidence that weightlifting can stop your growth . The origins of weightlifting being a thing that stunted your growth came from a couple of places, most recently a 1970s study of Japanese child laborers. The children that did work all day ended up shorter than average . The truth behind the stunted growth is, of course, malnutrition. Child laborers worked long hours and didn’t make much money, not nearly enough to feed themselves well.
Another reason people used to think weightlifting was bad for children was they didn’t develop muscles like you do as an adult. Children don’t have enough hormones yet for muscles to develop properly, but what weightlifting can do for them is put stress on the bones, encouraging them to grow as well as help them develop their central nervous system, allowing pathways to be created for them to do more work as they go into adulthood. A lot of lifting weights is in the head.
Recent studies have shown that weight lifting at any young age can help build bones and stave off obesity for children leading into their adulthood. Weight lifting at a young age has also been shown to prevent injuries and osteoporosis into old age.
S There is no reason to think that your height will be affected by GH released through exercise for that reason and there is no evidence to back up that claim. Exercise and weight lifting during puberty is a great thing, it could possibly set you up to be much stronger and healthier throughout your life…just not taller.