Are we taller yet?

Published in Eastern Visayas Journal on August 24, 2021

The Miss Universe Philippines fever is heating up with the announcement of the top 50 delegates last Sunday. The MUP organization itself made the news when it removed the height requirement for its candidates this year. In a similar move, President Duterte signed Republic Act 11549 last May, lowering the height minimum requirements for applicants of the Philippine National Police, Bureau of Fire Protection, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, and Bureau of Corrections.

The change in height requirements brings hope to shorter though equally beautiful and talented aspirants of the most prestigious beauty pageant in the country, and opens the door wider to a bigger pool of candidates for careers in law enforcement. It does provoke the question: have we become shorter?

Results of the study A Century of Trends in Adult Human Height compared the heights of 18-year olds between 1896 and 1996. The average heights of Filipino males increased by two inches to 5ft 3in and Filipino females by one inch to 4ft 9in.

In 2019, INSIDER examined the height data from the medical database of a project run by Imperial College London. The database showed growth with our men averaging 5ft 4.25in and our women 4ft 10.89in. While Filipinos averaged a three-inch growth over a period of 123 years, we rank fifth in the INSIDER’S list of the countries with the shortest people in the world behind Guatemala, Madagascar, Laos, and Timor-Leste. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Netherlands recorded almost eight inches of height improvement over a period of 200 years, with the top countries averaging four inches of growth over a century.

According to Dr. Eirini Marouli, lecturer in Computational Biology at Queen Mary University of London, a person’s height is determined by genes, but different environments and lifestyle improvements also play important roles. Diet choice is a lifestyle improvement that can make an impact on how tall our children can be. Roser, Appel, and Ritchie’s study updated in 2019 on Human Height found that high consumption of milk has been linked to the tallness of Dutch people. Grasgruber’s earlier research in 2014 also showed that the consumption of animal-based protein such as egg, milk, and beef in high-income countries is the clearest predictor of male height.

As educators, we can help promote the importance of high-quality animal protein as part of our students’ lifelong learning process. Schools and community partners can offer continuing health education for parents as an outreach program while respecting religious-based food choices. Politicians, government officials, and organizations can organize feeding programs to barangays that provide milk and other protein-based food. While we cannot change the genes we were born with, we can certainly change the food we eat in order to grow tall and improve well-being of future generations.

Incidentally, we have two of the top 50 delegates in the search for Miss Universe Philippines 2021. Best of luck to Nepheline Dacuno of Tacloban City and Mystymyles Jude Zaragosa of Leyte Province as they continue their journey in this pageant.

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