The tallest people come from…the lowlands! Dutch rank ‘high’ in study

A study has confirmed what we all could have guessed: Dutch children and teenagers are the tallest in the world. 

It’s not a tall tale — the large-scale study of 65 million youngsters aged 5-19 stretched across almost 200 countries. The research found that Dutch male 19-year-olds have an average height of 1.83 metres. Meanwhile, Dutch female 19-year-olds average 1.70 metres.

Compare that to the countries that fall short on the list. According to the study, the men in East Timor are the most vertically challenged. At 1.60 metres, the men are ten centimetres shorter than the average Dutch woman. Meanwhile, the shortest women in the world are in Guatemala, at just 1.50 metres.

Something in the water?

So is it something to do with the Dutch love for sandwiches or cycling? Well maybe. Clinical geneticist Wendy van Zelst-Stams of Radboud UMC says that the factors which make someone tall are kind of like a jigsaw puzzle.

READ MORE | Why are the Dutch so tall? Four possible answers

“If that puzzle is incomplete and pieces are missing, that has an influence,” Van Zelst-Stams tells RTL Nieuws. “Every piece of the puzzle can be a genetic factor, but also, for example, lifestyle and nutrition are part of it.”

Researcher Paula van Dommelen from TNO agrees. “The better the factors in which you live, such as the prosperity in the country, illnesses and access to healthcare, the greater the influence of your genes on your body. So it is a combination of all those factors that can make you tall.”

She compares the Netherlands to Great Britain, a country similarly developed to the Netherlands. “But British children have relatively less healthy eating habits than in other European countries. That means they are heavier and therefore shorter.”

READ MORE | 13 Years Old, 2 Metres Tall: Dutch Teen’s Operation to Make Him Shorter

Dutch people have been topping the charts for some time now, but paediatrician-endocrinologist Vera van Telligen says that the Dutch may have maxed out their limits. “What you see is that the Dutch have not been getting taller in the last ten years or so. We are still the tallest people from surveys, but we are no longer getting longer.”

Low blows

Being tall isn’t always fruitful though. Trousers and shirt sleeves are almost always too short. Attending a concert means blocking the views of other spectators. And a long-haul aeroplane trip can be an absolute nightmare.

Do you feel tall, short, or average when walking around the Netherlands? Tell us in the comments below!

Feature Image: Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in November 2020, and was fully updated in April 2021 for your reading pleasure.

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Samantha Dixon
Sam isn’t great at being Dutch. Originally hailing from Australia, she came to study in the Netherlands without knowing where the country was on a map. She once accidentally ordered the entire ice-cream menu at Smullers. She still can’t jump on the back of a moving bike. But, she remains fascinated by the tiny land of tall people.

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