Genetics influences around only 60-80% of your height (Visscher et al., 2006). The rest will be determined by external factors such as genetics and your immediate environment.
You can be taller by getting proper nutrition and exercise while you are still in your growing phase. Trying to extend the time your growth plates stay open is also possible through IGF-1, HGH, aromatase inhibitors, glucosamine, chondroitin, and S-Adenosyl methionine.
Height can be something that we all wish we were blessed with. Without a doubt, tall people are more attractive and more commanding in their appearance. Both men and women want to be taller (within reason). But being taller is not easy, especially if you come from a family of short people.
Unfortunately, there is little you can do about your height once you stop growing. At a certain point in your life, you are likely to stay that height for most of your life and start degenerating once you become much older. You can focus on how you present your height to help people perceive you as someone taller. While these things will do nothing for your actual height, they’ll improve your appearance, and you will look taller.
What Affects Height?
Genetics and Heritability
Without a doubt, genetics plays the most major role in determining your height, which is why people with tall parents are more likely to end up taller than those who don’t have tall parents. Certainly, some outliers have parents of average heights who end up being quite tall. Still, much of that is attributable to genetics.
People from different places in the world have varying rates of height heritability. It is not one thing that you can just lump into a single definition. For one, this study on Australian twins resulted in a height heritability of 80% based on genome analysis. According to the study, these results align with previous independent studies on height heritability as well (Visscher et al., 2006)
In another study on Chinese families that totaled more than a thousand individuals, the researchers found that the heritability of height in the Chinese population is around 64.7% (Xin-Li et al., 2004). These results indicate that the heritability of height varies across locations and ethnicities. This phenomenon may be due to external factors such as climate and surroundings. The diet of a particular region could also have had major influences on height heritability. Overall, genetics and how your chance for a good height is passed down from generation to generation is something observable in all communities, even though it occurs at different levels.
In many cases, if not all, nutrition plays a very significant role in height. For example, let’s take this study by Grasgruber et al. (2014) on height and the external factors that affect it. Out of all the external factors listed in the study, protein consumption turned out to have the most significance in the male European population, specifically in animal protein. Animal protein is more digestible (95% digestibility) than plant-based protein which could be why animal protein matters more.
The study mentioned above has several limitations. For one, it focuses only on a male-driven study of a specific group of people (Europeans). Many of the studies that tackled nutrition and height often have conflicting results. These conflicts are most likely the result of variations in ethnicity and socioeconomic factors. It can be difficult to define the extent of nutrition in height determination.
Recent studies looked at zinc and how it can help stimulate growth. Park et al., 2017 found that zinc had a positive effect on linear growth. There are also a few other studies that attest to the value of zinc in stimulating height not only in healthy children but also in those with underlying conditions.
The Economics of Height
In many cases, economic status also determines height potential. Since nutrition and height go hand in hand, the long term effects of economic status are relevant. The relevance of economics in the diet may not be immediately relevant in decades of analysis, but generations of diet, culture, and economic differences also create height variation.
All of these factors together explain why we have so many height variations across different ethnicities. Like how, for example, Caucasians are more likely to be taller than Asians. In the future, with globalization and the ease of travel, we might be seeing less of a discrepancy between the height of different ethnicities.
The Growing Process
Each bone in the body has something called growth plates or epiphyseal plates. These growth plates determine your height potential. As long as a person is still growing, these growth plates will remain open. Growth plates hold the most importance to height in long bones such as the tibia and fibula. Growth usually stops in the adolescent years at around 18. However, growth is still possible into a person’s early twenties, though unlikely. Around those ages, the growth plates seal, and height growth will no longer be possible. Influencing height is possible through proper nutrition and exercise. In the growing period, adolescents should get enough rest and exercise for them to reach their potential height.
Through medical advancements, there are now several trials that aim to help with maximizing height potential. Some people claim that growing with closed plates is possible, but that topic is still highly debatable. The general idea that we accept today is that you can no longer be taller without (painful and inconvenient) surgery when your growth plates close. Usually, the surgical attempt to lengthen the leg bones is not for people who just want a cosmetic change. The surgery can take months of recovery, and its most practical application is for major injuries. Thus, it’s not an option for most people.
How to Slow Down Epiphyseal Fusion
The following includes a list of substances that can, in theory, slow down the closure of growth plates. They should not be used without the supervision of a physician.
One way that you can keep your growth plates open longer is by using aromatase inhibitors. Estrogen is one of the hormones that helps speed along the process of epiphyseal fusion. What happens is that the enzyme aromatase converts certain androgens to certain types of estrogen. Through aromatase inhibition, the capacity and time for growth can stay open for a longer period. Using AIs decelerates the process of growth plate fusion (Dunkel, 2006).
Let’s take, for example, this study by Geffner (2009). In the paper, the researcher looked into the safety and effectiveness of aromatase inhibitors in augmenting height. The conclusion was that trials have shown that the drug is effective. However, the long-term effects of using aromatase inhibitors are widely unknown and require more research.
Insulin-Like Growth Factor 1 and HGH
Insulin-like growth factor 1 or IGF-1, is a hormone that has a similar composition to insulin and comes from the liver. Both IGF-1 and human growth hormone (HGH) are important in stimulating growth. Children who have IGF-1 and HGH deficiencies are likely to not grow to their potential height and end up short in stature.
HGH highly influences IGF-1 production. In the same manner, IGF-1 also mediates many of HGH’s effects, such as stimulating bone growth, and thus, height. There are now trials that use IGF and other growth-stimulating materials to help children with stunted growth. While there is still a lot left to uncover regarding IGF-1, it’s emerging as one of the possible options for maximizing height.
As for HGH, the hormone has an extensive history of helping with short stature. However, its applications are mostly limited to stunted growth in children who have HGH deficiencies. There is limited research tackling the issue of HGH when used as a way to improve height without an HGH deficiency.
Glucosamine and Chondroitin
According to this study by Wolff (2014), glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin sulfate contribute to the development of bone growth. Ingesting these compounds could help with the lengthwise bone growth through the specific targeting of the epiphyseal plate. Like many of the other experimental methods mentioned, there still needs to be extensive research done on this topic.
DNA methylation is the most studied aspect of epigenetics. The process of DNA methylation deals with how the DNA’s function is changed through the addition of a methyl group. DNA methylation plays a role in bodily processes such as aging and genomic imprinting.
There is a correlation between the loss of DNA methylation and the fusing of your growth plates. DNA methylation also decreases as you get older, which coincides with the downward slope of growth through aging. The loss of DNA methylation is apparent in the slow proliferation of resting zone chondrocytes. Thus, we can conclude that the slowing down of DNA methylation allows the growth plates to fuse.
The proposed solution is to increase DNA methylation to give more time for leaving the growth plates open. S-Adenosyl-L-methionine (SAMe) is one of the metabolites central to methylation and thus will promote it.
Bone growth in mammals is brought on by endochondral ossification, which is basically the process of cartilage turning into bone. This process is achieved through proliferation, hypertrophy, cell death, and osteoblastic replacement processes in the growth plate. C-Type Natriuretic Peptide (CNP) is a natriuretic peptide that helps stimulate endochondral bone growth (Nakao et al., 2015). There have been studies on how low levels of CNP affect bone deficiency in mammals. Although the data and research on CNP are still not enough for it to be applied in clinical practice, there is a future for it given enough time and development.
Increasing CNP levels in your body will help stimulate bond growth through fast-tracking the endochondral ossification in the growth plate. In addition to that, CNP also inhibits Fibroblast growth factor receptor 3 (FGFR3), which is a negative regulator of bone growth. FGFR3 mutations also cause short stature in some types of skeletal dysplasia. So, by increasing CNP levels in the body, you can stimulate bone growth and help inhibit negative regulators of bone growth.
Meclozine is an anti-histamine for motion sickness that can also inhibit FGFR3 just as much as CNP (Matsushita, 2013). This makes it an excellent alternative for CNP and is an accessible way that you can increase bone growth.
Kidney Secreted Bone Growth Factor (KSBGF)
KSBGF is one way to increase bone growth as the name implies. There are studies that look into how to increase KSBGF in the body. In the process of looking into that, Kaempferol emerged as a possible stimulant of KSBGF. Kaempferol is a naturally occurring substance that has current applications in cancer-prevention research.
In a patent that was filed in 2007, Kaempferol seemed to increase osteoblast cell proliferation, which as previously mentioned, is one of the ways that cartilage turns into bone in the growth plate. Although the patent is now legally abandoned, it can be a good starting point to explore the different options to increase bone growth.
Words of warning: Many of the items listed above lack proper (and conclusive) research on human beings. While there is anecdotal advice that you can find on the internet regarding their effectiveness, you should still take them with a grain of salt. If you are interested in any of those experimental drugs listed above, in-depth research on each of them is necessary.
Limb Lengthening Surgery
If you’re truly dedicated to gaining extra inches, even after puberty, limb lengthening surgery might be your only hope. This surgery consists of two phases.
First, the surgeon cuts your thigh open, cuts your bone in half, and connects the two ends with a device called a distractor. Then, the distractor is turned and adjusted at a rate of 1 mm. per day. This is done either by an external device that connects into your bone from the outside, or it’s done by an internal device that slowly increases the length of the distractor via a motor. Since bones actually heal very fast when broken, the bone grows here at a high rate.
In the second phase, the device is taken out and the bones are allowed to heal. Once this happens, you gain around 2-3 inches in height. One case report showed a gain of 8 inches.
Be warned, the surgery has a brutal recovery and while your bones are being distracted, you’ll be in pain and have to wear braces for your legs.
However, if you’re willing to go through it, this is a legit way to add inches to your height after puberty.
Do Supplements/Vitamins for Height Work?
We’re no strangers to supplements and vitamins that advertise growth. Many of these target children and teens, although some could also be specifically for adults. However, there’s no guarantee of whether these vitamins work or not.
For younger children who are still very early in their growing phase, these vitamins could contribute to them reaching their maximum height potential. Most likely not because of some amazing component, but because of the vitamin’s contribution to the child’s nutrition. And even then, there’s no guarantee that they will be effective on a specific person. It’s often a case to case basis, and most of the good results are anecdotal.
If the vitamin advertises that it can make you taller even as an adult, then take caution because that claim is probably and most likely untrue. When your growth plates close, there’s no simple vitamin that can make you taller. Like previously said, there are some people who claim that you can get taller with closed plates, but they’re usually complex attempts at gaining height and are not for the average person looking to gain a few centimeters.
What Kinds of Food Make a Person Taller?
As previously mentioned, diet is a significant part of height. Some foods contain the right type of nutrients that help stimulate growth. The key to maximizing height potential is making sure that a child gets a balanced and nutritious diet. Protein and calcium, in particular, are some components to look out for.
Here are examples of food that are high in protein or calcium and are good for improving height during the growth phase:
If a person in the growing phase (child or teenager) seems to be not growing at the proper rate despite an excellent diet, they could have hormone deficiencies. HGH deficiencies cause children to be smaller than they should be at their age. Treatment for these deficiencies will usually involve an infusion of the hormone. Make sure to get checked by a medical professional on what next steps to take.
Am I Tall Enough?
The answer to this question varies all over the world. The average height for different ethnicities is quite different. A caucasian man, for example, would be much taller than an east Asian. The way you feel about your height depends on the people surrounding you. For reference, take a look at this table depicting the percentile of certain heights taken from American men and women.
|Percentile||Male Height||Female Height|
There are objectively tall and objectively short people. But the way you feel about your height is a matter of personal perspective. There are also several ways you can improve your perceived height, such as the following:
Even if you don’t tack on a couple of cm to your height, there are still ways that you can look taller, not through actually augmenting your height, but just by appearing taller than you are. Many of the choices available for becoming taller are quite risky and taxing once you already go beyond your normal growth phase. Thus, what you can do is find ways to make the most of your height. This way, you will still give the appearance of being taller without going through the pains of actual height gain.
The first thing you will have to work on is your posture. It’s easy to ignore the terrible state of your posture, especially if you’ve lived with it your whole life. Many people don’t know and recognize how amazing an effect just exercising the proper posture will have. It will make you look taller and more confident. The slouch you have probably takes away at least a couple of cm from your actual height.
Certainly, it is overwhelming to change your posture, so you have to be patient with it. Take time to practice it until it becomes a habit.
For everything you could ever want to know about posture, check out our ultimate guide.
Exercise is also one of the best ways you can appear taller, mostly through facilitating proper posture. Unfortunately, the idea that certain exercises make you objectively taller is not one backed by research. The best you can hope for is that it improves your sense of projection and helps with your posture. Many core exercises can help with ultimately achieving proper posture.
Through exercise, you can also decompress your spinal discs, which will make you taller, but only temporarily. Height usually fluctuates at different times of the day, and relaxing and decompressing your discs will extend your height by a very small amount. Thus, exercise isn’t a sustainable way to be taller.
Wearing the right clothes that flatter you is a minor change and is not likely to give you life-changing results when it comes to height. Still, it might be worth trying out if you want to take all the advantages you can get. Like with posture, clothes that fit you properly will translate into confidence and the way you carry yourself For example, wearing bottoms that accentuate your legs’ length will make you look taller than you are. In the same way, vertical stripes also lengthen the appearance of your body.
Wearing the right fit will also be helpful. Clothes that don’t fit you right can sometimes make you look shorter than you are. Although trendy, baggy dress shirts can make you look shorter by breaking up the length of your leg.
For both sexes, shoes can give you an additional boost of height. You can buy shoes with stackable insoles called shoe lifts and add as much height as you want (at the expense of walking around awkwardly).