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What Factors Influence Children's Height? How Significant is the Role of Genetic Factors?

What Factors Influence Children's Height? How Significant is the Role of Genetic Factors?There are numerous factors that influence the growth and development of young children,...

What Factors Influence children's Height? How Significant is the Role of Genetic Factors?

There are numerous factors that influence the growth and development of young children, primarily including:

Genetics: Height is influenced by genetic factors and is also related to ethnicity and the proximity of consanguinity. A question often on parents' minds is how tall their child will be in the future. Here, we introduce a formula for predicting height for reference.

Adult height for boys = 1/2 (father's height + mother's height) × 1.08. Adult height for girls = 1/2 (father's height × 0.923 + mother's height). The values calculated using this formula are approximate expected values and only indicate the potential future height of children. However, many constraining factors greatly affect these expected values.

Nutrition: Nutrition serves as the material foundation for the growth of young children. Their growth and development necessitate adequate, comprehensive, and balanced nutrition, including carbohydrates, fats, proteins, minerals, vitamins, and trace elements such as iron, copper, zinc, magnesium, and iodine. In addition, foods rich in phospholipids, taurine, and lysine should be consumed in moderation to facilitate brain and physical development.

Sleep: During sleep, the pituitary gland secretes more growth hormone. A child's growth rate during deep sleep is three times faster than when awake. Sleep also aids in protein synthesis and boosts immune function.

Exercise: Studies have shown that children who enjoy physical activity are, on average, 2 to 4 centimeters taller than those who don't. Exercise enhances blood circulation, metabolism, skeletal growth, bone density, and immune capabilities. However, exercise intensity should not be excessive; otherwise, it could have a counterproductive effect.

Light Exposure: Light exposure affects the brain through the pineal gland, regulating the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that induces sleep. This helps establish the body's sleep-wake cycle, or circadian rhythm.

Mental Factors: Children experiencing psychological repression and emotional trauma may face disruptions in neuroendocrine function, leading to growth stunting. Statistics show that orphaned children, on average, are several centimeters shorter than their peers. If orphans are placed in a harmonious and nurturing environment resembling a normal family, growth stagnation can be eliminated and height growth significantly accelerated. For instance, a case I treated involved a stunted child whose father died in a car accident and was subsequently ignored by his remarried mother. Over three years, the child's height barely increased.

Illness: Certain chronic conditions such as congenital heart disease, malnutrition, chronic diarrhea, rickets, tuberculosis, etc., can impact a child's growth and development. Some endocrine, metabolic, and congenital genetic disorders can also affect height growth.

Genetic research suggests that genetics influence adult height by around 60% to 70%. Genetic factors influencing childhood and adolescent growth include familial and racial factors. Family genetic factors manifest more fully as development matures. This phenomenon is known as "familial aggregation" in growth and development. Factors like early or late puberty, growth spurts, and age of menarche also have ties to family genetics. Using these, the adult height of a child can be predicted based on their age, height, bone age, and parental height; for girls, menarche age and height at menarche can also be used. Research on racial influences indicates that body proportions and limb-torso ratios are mainly influenced by racial genetics. Different races exhibit significant differences in height, sitting height, sitting height/height ratio, bone age, tooth age, menarche age, etc. East Asian countries (China, Japan, South Korea, etc.) share the characteristic of delayed bone age compared to non-African and Western children from infancy, but their growth plate closure during adolescence significantly outpaces the latter two. This acceleration in bone age closure during adolescence is believed to be the main reason Asian children have shorter adult heights compared to Caucasians. For instance, the Congolese pygmies are among the shortest populations globally. Despite similar growth hormone levels, their response differs from other populations. African-American and Caucasian children growing up in similar conditions exhibit no significant difference in average adult height, but the former tend to have longer legs. While genetics play a role, we should not lose faith. On the contrary, we should prioritize and maximize the role of non-genetic factors. The clinical application of recombinant human growth hormone today can effectively alter the ultimate height of children with growth hormone deficiency or idiopathic short stature.

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