Changes in Relative Height of Children in Northeast Asian Countries in Fifty Years Since 1960 | Biomedgrid llc

Abstract

Economies in Northeast Asia made rapid and steady progress in the past half century, since 1960. Food consumption improved remarkably. Total calorie intakes increased first, followed by steady increments in animal sourced foods. Children became appreciably taller in height. In the mid-2000s, teens in South Korea were the tallest, 3cm taller than their Japanese and Taiwanese peers. In terms of per capita consumption of animal products, S. Korea was apparently the lowest. Genetics, however, fails to explain. A century ago, young men in Korea were 2 cm taller than Japanese but 3 cm shorter than Taiwanese. Since the mid-1970s, S. Koreans have been taking 2–300 kcal/day more overall food calories and twice as much vegetables than both Japanese and Taiwanese.

Introduction

Stature is a net measure that captures not only the supply of inputs to health but demands on those inputs (Stature and the Standard of Living) [1]. Japan’s economy recovered from the war devastation to the pre-war level in 1955 and made rapid and steady growth toward the 1990s, despite the two world-wide oil-crises. The standard of living increased and food consumption improved appreciably in quantity and quality. Per capita meat consumption, for example, increased from 7–8 kg/year in the pre-war years to 27.5 kg in 1960, and 91.3 and 159.4 kg in 1970–74 and 1990–94, respectively [2] . Accordingly, children grew remarkably taller in height, i.e. mean height of boys in high school senior grade, 17 years of age, increased from 161.0 cm in 1930 and 161.8 cm in 1950, respectively to 165.0 cm in 1960, 168.8 cm in 1975, and 170.4 cm in 1990, respectively and ceased to grow significantly taller in the early 1990s.

Secular Changes in Child Height in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan

School health surveys have been conducted on the nationwide scale since 1900 in Japan and since 1960, to the author’s command, in South Korea and Taiwan, respectively. (Table 1) provides mean height of boys in the elementary 1st grade (6 years of age), junior high school 1st grade (12 years old) and high school 3rd grade (17 years old) in Japan, S. Korea and Taiwan by 5 year-intervals from 1960 to 2010 [10–12]. Boys in the three countries grew significantly taller in height in the past 50 years since 1960. Fine details set aside, Japanese boys were 2–3cm taller, regardless of age groups, than their peers in S. Korea and Taiwan in the 1960s through the mid-1970s, only slightly, 1 cm or less, taller in the mid-1980s and then ceased to grow significantly taller in height, whereas boys in S. Korea and Taiwan kept growing taller appreciably to overtake their peers in Japan by 2 cm in the mid-1990s. Boys in S. Korea kept growing further to surpass their Japanese peers by at least 3cm in the mid-2000s. Boys in Taiwan, however, became slightly shorter since the late-1990s, to be as tall as their Japanese peers in the late- 2000s, for unidentifiable reasons.

Steering Away from Fruit and Vegetables by Japanese Children

The author has been calling for attention to the wide-spread tendency of wakamono no kudamono banare in Japan (steering away from fruits by Japanese young) as a possible mal-impacts on child height growth. According to a few empirical cohort studies, consumption of fruit and vegetables have measurable impacts on bone mineral accrual for prenatal and growing children [16, 17, 18, 19]. Boys reach their maturity in height at age of 17–18 years and girls a little younger, 16–17 years of age. “Inputs to health”, or intakes of nutrients, both in quantity and quality, past these maturity ages rarely affect the human height development. When we discuss changes in child height between countries or over time, changes in per capita consumption by age groups, infants, pre-adolescence, and adolescence, and young adults, — -, should be desirable.

Conclusion

Children in Northeast Asia have grown remarkably taller in height in the past half century, since 1960. Teens in South Korea have grown the most, i.e., 3cm taller than their Japanese and Taiwanese peers in the mid-2000s. The economic development has been fantastic in the three countries, with South Korea distinctly behind Taiwan and Japan in terms of per capita GDP. In respect of per capita caloric intakes from animal products, South Korea was distinctly lower than Japan and Taiwan. Are Koreans genetically taller than Japanese? Probably so. But young men in Korea were 3cm shorter than their peers in Taiwan a century ago, when the two countries were under Japan’s colonization.

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