We are in the midst of an epidemic.
I’m not talking about the Obesity Epidemic, fortunately already recognized and being actively combated by such brave foot-soldiers as MeMe Roth and Mississippi Lawmakers: no, I’m talking about the Tall Epidemic.
Face it: since the American Revolutionary Era, people have been getting taller. Chinese children are growing at an alarming rate, 6 cm (2.34 inches) taller than just 30 years ago. Teens getting taller and heavier.
Obesity is hereditary, second only to height. The Obesity Epidemic dictates that we underfeed children at a “high risk” for adult obesity (those who have fat parents, grandparents, siblings, and/or aunts and uncles). Underfeeding in childhood results in lower weight and stunted height. Given that, it should follow that parents should be made to put their kids on diets to keep them from both getting fat, and getting too tall.
The tallness and obesity epidemics are inextricable. Being too tall can lead to BMI differences between men and women. Taller women have a lower BMI on average, in comparison to taller men. This means we can combat the obesity epidemic by making sure men don’t get too tall. Women, of course, are expected to remain under an acceptable number on the scale, regardless of height, so as they get taller they better stay under 180 lbs, even if they’re 6′ 5″. A woman above 180 lbs is objectively fat, no matter what her height. As a society we could ease their struggle by enforcing the Acceptably Short standard.
Now you may think that all of this sounds Shortperior, but I am actually 6′ 0″ tall. It will be my goal to show you that if I can do it, so can you!
The Tall Epidemic has many costs, both economic, and health-related.
Economic Costs of Tallness
The economic costs of tallness are myriad, and therefore devastating. It’s reported that in Europe, the Dutch are growing at an alarming rate, placing an economic strain on the whole country scrambling to keep up with their unnatural growth:
The average Dutchman, whose country produces the Continent’s loftiest men, is now more than six feet tall – almost two inches above his American counterpart. And he is still growing. Across the Netherlands hotel owners are lengthening beds and raising door mantles to stop the nation’s tall youth suffering from irreparable anatomical damage.
According to a New Yorker essay on the subject last week, Dutch ambulances are even having to keep their back doors open on many occasions to allow for the prodigious dimensions of their patients’ legs.
Health costs of tallness
Tallness is associated with a range of cardiovascular issues, including (but not limited to), irregular heartbeats, atrial fibrillation, and venous thrombosis.
Greater height associated with central nervous system (CNS) disorders: Pre-Morbid Height and Weight as Risk Factors for Development of Central Nervous System Neoplasms
Greater height is also associated with a wide range of risk factors for cancers: taller and slimmer girls ages 7 – 15 have a greater incidence of breast cancer later in life, tallness is linked to increased risk for ovarian, pancreatic and pre-menopausal cancer, the greatest incidence of testicular cancer is seen in tall, slim men, tall women have a greater incidence of breast cancer, and greater height is related to increased prostate cancer risk.
In fact, greater adult height is a risk factor for higher overall incidences of cancer and, in particular, with cancer of the breast (after the menopause), prostate, large bowel, endometrium, ovarythat is, the major non-smoking related malignanciesand kidney.
What can I do to help combat the Tall Epidemic?
Though alarmingly paradoxical (since they’re usually blamed on the same phenomenon, better nutrition), the Obesity Epidemic can help to combat the Tall Epidemic.
At the time of the American Revolution, the average US male was two inches taller than his British counterpart. Today he is almost half an inch shorter.
America has eight million people with no job, 40 million individuals with no health insurance, 35 million living below the poverty line, and a population that exists mainly on junk food. There, the rise in average height that marked its progress as a nation through the 19th and 20th centuries has stopped and has actually reversed – albeit very slightly – in recent years.
I wasn’t aware my diet consisted mainly of evil “junk” food, but since one researcher in the UK says it’s so, it must be! Scienterrific!
From this we see one of the solutions may lie in the Obesity Epidemic itself. Clearly if we ate more “junk” food—foods that contain over an arbitrary level of fats, sugars, meats, ‘empty’ nutrients, carbohydrates, or basically anything except fresh wheat stalks, fruits, vegetables, and Splenda—we’d be shorter.
However, as we look into it, we realize our solutions are indeed vast, since people are both shorter from overfeeding, and shorter from undernutrition.
Undernutrition was strongly associated, both in the review of published work and in new analyses, with shorter adult height, less schooling, reduced economic productivity, and—for women—lower offspring birthweight.
It seems that both starvation and over-feeding can combat tallness. Parents, get started today!
In addition, it is our duty as concerned citizens to make sure the risk factors, both health-related and economic, get widely promulgated to a public that grotesquely associates tallness with greater health, success, beauty, and virility (in men). Our children are living in a culture infused with pro-tall messages that are damaging to their health. Not only are they psychologically damaged when they try to grow to that too-tall ideal and fail, but they are even more damaged if they succeed, falsely believing they are a better, healthier, more desirable person for being taller. These are frightening times, and it will take a lot to educate the public on the facts behind the Tall Epidemic, as illustrated in the many links to studies above, if we hope to stop our children’s heights from continuing to shoot up, and up, and up.
In fact, it is reasonable to suggest that if we keep growing at this rate, deaths from cardiovascular issues and cancer shall make this generation be the first generation whose average life expectancy lowered.
Mental and physical health notwithstanding, tallness also places a great burden on our society.
Tallness putting a burden on our society
Tallness causes the discomfort of shorter people. On airplanes, a tall person’s legs often jam right into the back of the seat in front of them. The person sitting in front of a tall person cannot recline their seat, or the tall person will protest. Having to fly with knees in your back, unable to recline, is an injustice. Part of what is included in airline service is some modicum of comfort within the small space of the seat for which you paid, which includes not having someone’s knees invade your space, or being able to recline your seat if you desire. Tall people should have to pay for their airline seat, and the seat in front of them.
Building codes adjusted for tallness place a hidden ‘tall tax’ on the rest of us. In Massachusetts, the building codes state that ceiling heights must be 6’8″ minimum in order to include space in the calculation of a house’s square footage. DF and I have a home where half the basement is at a height of 6′ 1″; we lose 250 square feet in the valuation of our house, which means thousands of dollars in lost equity because of too-tall standards.
Everywhere we see accommodations being made for tall people that wouldn’t be made for fat people, or short people. The tallest person, for instance, can find some sort of vehicle which accommodates him, even if he has to resort to a large truck or SUV for legroom. However, even the most petite two-seater Porsche still only allows the seat to be pulled up to a certain point, leaving little people in the dust, forced to buy extenders. Dangerous heightening surgeries are being undertaken by some little people in order to try to fit in to our too-tall world, while no one is clamoring for shortening surgeries for the too-tall.
The bad news: it may be too late for tall adults to turn back their tallness, though if the Tall Epidemic got as much media attention as the Obesity Epidemic, epidemiologists everywhere would be applying for grants through Lilly and Merck in order to fashion a prescription medication that would reduce height, by counteracting the overactive growth hormone in the too-tall, and so forth.
If the Tall Epidemic’s health concerns (see above), as terrifying as those correlated with the Obesity Epidemic, were given as much attention as those of the latter, surgeons would be proposing procedures which have been shown to cause great long-term difficulties to the patient but have the (at least temporary) effect of reducing the evil toxic fat (like bariatric surgery, lap-band insertion, liposuction, electrical shocking of the hippocampus). These potential surgeries could include leg-bone shortening, bariatric surgery in young children to reduce the nutritional absorption from food so that their growth is stunted, electrical shocking of the area of the brain that releases the hormone involved with height, imposed osteoporosis so that bones become more brittle and result in an effective shortening of a few inches, and so forth.
In short, if tallness weren’t popularly considered a beautiful attribute, and not an ugly attribute like fatness, people would be as concerned about the health risks associated with tallness as they are with the risks associated with fatness. People would be as indignant at too-tall people as they are at the too-fat. Tall people would be disincluded from popular media like most movies, television shows, and commercials, as are fat people. Songs would be written about killing too-tall wives, and children would be sent to summer ‘shortening’ camps. Schools would be reporting the heights of their children every semester, with the schools that lowered the average height of their children presented monetary awards by the town and/or state. Tall parents would be denied adoption or fertility services, and too-tall children would be removed from their homes and placed in the custody of the state. Tall people would have to purchase two seats on Southwest Airlines. Tall people would be required to report their heights at nutritional restaurants, and disallowed service if they are too tall. State and local ‘shortening’ programs would be initiated to help educate parents on how to best protect children at a high risk of becoming tall and falling victim to the host of health problems associated with tallness.
Disclaimer – though all the links point to real studies, the point of the post is satirical. All digs at tall or fat people are meant to be purely illustrative, and not literal.