A 2017 study has found that high animal protein consumption has been linked with increased male height.

male height
Male height and animal protein consumption

Given their almost exclusive reliance on red meat and dairy, it’s not a wonder Mongolians who still live according to the old ways are considered the most masculine and imposing of east Asian peoples, in a region where rice-based diets are otherwise most common

Male Height and Animal Protein

An extensive study from 2017 which has been widely discussed on Twitter this week shows that the tallest male statures in the world are associated with high consumption of animal protein. In a further blow to any claim that vegetarian or vegan diets can be equal to or superior to diets rooted in animal products – recently we discussed a new study showing that low-fat vegetarian diets are disastrous for male testosterone levels –  the authors are clear that animal protein, especially from red meat, eggs and milk, is superior to protein derived from plant and grain sources.

A Twitter user discusses the fascinating study in depth

The study builds on a previous study of men from 42 European countries, as well as Australia, New Zealand and the USA, which showed that nutrition and genetics were the strongest correlates of height among young men. 


Countries in the 2017 study

Anthropometric data – body measurements – were collected from 105 countries in Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, Asia and Oceania. Data on average consumption of 28 different kinds of protein source were collected for these countries, as well as socio-economic data.

As far as distributions of male heights were concerned, there was significant variance.

“The range of values is very wide, from 161.6 cm in Timor-Leste up to 183.8 cm in the Netherlands (22.2 cm). Very tall statures above 180 cm are typical only of Europe, especially the areas with the highest frequency of Y-haplogroups I-M170, R1b-U106 and R1a-M42011, and the highest quality of nutrition. The lowest values (below 165 cm) can be found in Yemen and Southeast Asia (Timor-Leste, Cambodia, Bangladesh etc.). Highly developed countries in East Asia (Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan), China and Muslim countries in North Africa and the Near East are positioned roughly in the middle, with heights fluctuating around 170 cm.”


Average male height showed a strong correlation with total protein intake

The results showed an obvious correlation between average male height and average protein intake, as illustrated in the graph above. This should come as little surprise.

Interestingly, one thing that didn’t show any correlation with average height was GDP. Certain states in Asia and the Middle East with high GDP still showed average heights at the short end of the scale. The authors note also that heights in the Middle East appear to have decreased over the past century.

The analysis revealed three fundamental types of diet: rice-based, wheat-based and milk-based. Wheat is predominant in Muslim countries in the North Africa and the Middle East; rice, in tropical Asia; and milk in Europe. Of these three ‘nutritional styles’, the authors conclude:

See the source image

Rice-based diets are accompanied by very small statures

“The first nutritional style (in tropical Asia) is based on rice and is also characterized by a very low consumption of protein and energy. It is accompanied by very small statures between 162 and 168 cm.

The second one (in the Muslim countries of North Africa and the Near East) is based on wheat and the consumption of plant protein reaches the highest values in the world. The intake of total protein and total energy is relatively high as well and comparable with Europe, but the average height of young males is still rather short and does not exceed 174 cm.

The third one is based on animal proteins (particularly those from dairy) and is typical of Northern/Central Europe. This region is characterized by the tallest statures in the world (>180 cm), being matched only by the inhabitants of the Western Balkans, in which we can presume extraordinary genetic predispositions.”

Olivier Richters ‘the Dutch Giant’ poses onstage in India, providing an apt comparison of the differences between the first and third nutritional styles highlighted in the studySee the source image

With regard to plant-based diets, the authors conclude, unequivocally, that they “are not able to provide the optimal stimuli for physical growth, even if the intake of total protein and total energy poses no problem. In fact, we observed a difference of 10 cm (174 cm vs. 184 cm) between nations relying on the surplus of plant and animal proteins, respectively.”

The authors provide further explanation for why plant-based diets are sub-optimal:

“Besides low protein quality, a frequently forgotten limiting factor of plant-based diets is their low nutritional density, with a disproportionate load of ‘empty calories’ from starch and oils that must be consumed per unit of a key nutrient.”

The real winners of this comparison are meat, eggs and milk, as they were in the previous study upon which this more recent study seeks to build. 

“These results confirm that red meat and eggs are the most height-related components of the human diet after milk, which primarily stems from the complete amino acid spectrum of their proteins.”

Amino acid scores i.e. protein quality correlated with height

Why not try Vince Gironda’s Golden Age ‘steak and eggs’ diet to blast fat and get in the best shape of your life? Or what about his ‘hormone precursor’ diet, in which you consume as many as 36 eggs a day as part of a bulking cycle?

While this study and others like it should prove devastating to the case for switching to plant-based diets, advocates are unlikely to take much notice. In fact, as a recent study showed, advocates are already realising that health and taste claims will not be the most effective way to get people to switch to plant-based diets.

plant based

Instead, social pressure is increasingly becoming the model for those who would see animal-based agriculture go the way of the dinosaurs.

What have we here? (English version) | Help Dad | Oatly – YouTube

Oatly recently came in for serious criticism for its ‘Help Dad’ advertising campaign, in which older fathers were seen being shamed by their ‘enlightened’ children for drinking cow’s milk instead of an ersatz oat-based alternative.

Oat milks contain vegetable oils, mainly canola oil, which is a world away from the healthy fats contained in normal cow’s milk. Indeed, vegetable oil consumption may be one of the main drivers of the West’s obesity epidemic, as well as host of other horrible chronic diseases. We’ve gone so far as to label it ‘one of the worst things you can eat’.

Oat milk production, too, is no friend to the environment. Indeed, oat production is extremely nitrogen-intensive, and requires massive amounts of fertiliser to support, which in time leads to soil depletion. Although Oatly claims it oat milk is free from Glyphosate – an extremely harmful herbicide made by Monsanto – their supplier was forced to issue the following statement:

“According to the press release… the non-profit Environmental Working Group (EWG), headquartered in Washington, D.C. has found glyphosate residues in several oat-based products. In light of this announcement, we feel it is important to share with you, our customers, our ongoing engagement in this area.”

Glyphosate has been found to cause a number of serious problems, including cancer, in humans and animals.

So, all in all, it’s not quite such a simple morality tale as the plant-based food manufacturers and their advocates like to claim it is. But don’t think that will stop them from making those claims; instead expect them to turn up the volume and ratchet up the pressure in the coming weeks, months and years.

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