June 19, 2007 — -- It's a small world, after all — especially in America.
New research shows that Americans are coming up short, but not in terms of money or lifestyle. Our growing problem is with our height.
The study, conducted by the University of Munich and Princeton University, found that the United States had the shortest population in the industrialized world, and the reason may have to do with the way people live.
America's first president, George Washington, stood a commanding 6-foot-2. In Washington's day, our country's residents were the tallest in the world.
"It's well known that the Americans held the title for 200 years," said University of Munich professor John Komlos. "Ever since the colonial times, the Americans were the tallest."
Today the Netherlands towers above the rest of the world as the tallest country, with an average height of 6-foot 1, without the wooden shoes. In 1850, Americans were two inches taller than the Dutch.
In Denmark, men average 6 feet in height, a couple of inches taller than the American male average of 5-foot-10.
American men aren't responding well to their shrinking stature. "There is no way I want the Dutch towering over the United States of America," said one 6-foot-3 man.
Komlos said height revealed a lot about a country's well-being, including how long its citizens lived and how healthy they were. Researchers said that one reason for Denmark's high ranking could be that the Danish health-care system provides better care to children when they are young, the time of life when most growing takes place.
Another reason for our lag might be the American diet, which is filled with fast food. Overeating can cause kids to produce too many growth hormones too early, which halts growth at a younger age.
Outside a Manhattan McDonald's, young Jacob said the news would make him think twice about going to the Netherlands or Denmark.
"If men here are getting shorter, then I need to move to Denmark," one 5-foot-9 woman said.