4

votes

Other factors besides grains leading to a decrease in height?

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created June 13, 2011 at 9:58 AM

I'm just wondering if there were any other factors/lifestyle changes besides the introduction of grains that caused the decrease in height and weaker bones 10 000 years ago?

To me, this is one of the strongest arguments for paleo because it seems so obvious but it gets constantly ignored by the anti-paleo crowd like Aragon, McDonald,... so it made me wonder if it's really just caused by grains or were there any other changes that could have resulted in smaller height ?

EDIT: Thanks a lot for all the answers! :)

332d9f75d1077abafff6887681f6b130

(1081)

on June 13, 2011
at 06:41 PM

On my mother's side, I come from a long line of sub 6-footers. I'm about the same height as my uncles, grand father, great uncles, and great grandfather. We just have short genes on that side of the family. My father's side has taller people on his mother's side. His father was adopted, so we know nothing about his side of the family unfortunately. To phrase it a little differently, with the advent of agriculture, what advantage is posed by being tall? Metabolically there is more to support, thus you have a higher caloric requirement vs a shorter person.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on June 13, 2011
at 06:15 PM

Looking one or two generations is I believe too short a span for evidence supporting your idea. While you or I might be short or tall, that is more determined by our genetics. The lessening of protein as a staple in the diet in the slow transition from HG to farming, etc is what I believe people are referring to.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on June 13, 2011
at 02:36 PM

I've never seen or read that. I've only read that it's only very very recently, like still happening, that overall our populations are reaching similar physical heights to HGs. Because slowly around the world the number of people getting adequate protein is rising.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on June 13, 2011
at 11:41 AM

could it possibly be more the lessening of animal protein in the diet (albeit perhaps crowded out with grain) as the direct cause of lowered height?

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5 Answers

2
332d9f75d1077abafff6887681f6b130

on June 13, 2011
at 05:04 PM

I think that the grain itself wasn???t as big of a factor in the shortening of the human population as it gets credit for on the Paleo boards. Being taller was an advantage to Grok and his HG buddies because taller people could run faster, jump farther, ect. But when you're chasing down an ear of corn or some wheat speed isn't as important. Thus shorter people who were at a competitive disadvantage were suddenly on a level playing field. Thus their genes were able to propagate more readily into the gene pool. I grew up eating relatively few grains, yet I???m only 5???6. My father was 6???4 at his tallest (he???s been shrinking for several years now) and my mother is 5???0, maybe a little less. Meanwhile my friend Janet grew up eating grains and corn almost exclusively (her parent???s are farmers) yet she stands 6???7 and is the SHORTEST MEMBER OF HER FAMILY (I???m jealous.) I think this is less from our diets and more from our genes. She comes from a tall family; I took after my mother.

Its similar to how poor vision used to be a disadvantage, but now we have glasses to correct for that and thus the genes for bad vision are no longer a disadvantage.

332d9f75d1077abafff6887681f6b130

(1081)

on June 13, 2011
at 06:41 PM

On my mother's side, I come from a long line of sub 6-footers. I'm about the same height as my uncles, grand father, great uncles, and great grandfather. We just have short genes on that side of the family. My father's side has taller people on his mother's side. His father was adopted, so we know nothing about his side of the family unfortunately. To phrase it a little differently, with the advent of agriculture, what advantage is posed by being tall? Metabolically there is more to support, thus you have a higher caloric requirement vs a shorter person.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on June 13, 2011
at 06:15 PM

Looking one or two generations is I believe too short a span for evidence supporting your idea. While you or I might be short or tall, that is more determined by our genetics. The lessening of protein as a staple in the diet in the slow transition from HG to farming, etc is what I believe people are referring to.

2
1d9af5db8833413037be3ac48964714f

on June 13, 2011
at 11:18 AM

So far as I know, that's thought to be the main thing. Of course, the advent of agriculture corresponded to grains replacing other food sources, so the decrease in other nutrient sources could also be a factor.

1
B7fec4bf394de8dfa6403067aea94e1b

on June 13, 2011
at 12:20 PM

It could also be a factor that farming, especially without the use of modern equipment, is a long, daily, stressful and arduous task. I would imagine the body would spend more time recovering and compensating from even a young age than spending the time increasing body mass and height.

0
Medium avatar

on June 13, 2011
at 05:49 PM

Well, I agree that the bigger problem was the displacement of quality, nutrient dense foods with grains that caused most of the reduction in stature. There are tons of humans who lived largely on porridge or bread-like foods for their entire lives.

On the other hand, if we had simply replaced tubers with wheat, the phytate might have interfered with mineral absorption enough that stature could have been affected, even if the same amount of flesh were still consumed.

Perhaps someone has studied height disparities between the peasant and elite classes vs. hunter gatherers. I would wager that the elites didn't take much of a hit in height with the advent of agriculture.

0
E5c7f14800c5992831f5c70fa746dc5c

(12857)

on June 13, 2011
at 01:13 PM

Can't find the blog post but Melissa mentions in one of her post that agriculturist shrank at first but eventually had similar height to HG's, at least that's what I think I read.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on June 13, 2011
at 02:36 PM

I've never seen or read that. I've only read that it's only very very recently, like still happening, that overall our populations are reaching similar physical heights to HGs. Because slowly around the world the number of people getting adequate protein is rising.

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