Hapi Papi: http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=stor...edutchhavegrown My, how the Dutch have grown Sun Jul 4, 9:40 AM ET By Tom Hundley Tribune foreign correspondent Rob Bruintjes comes from big people. His mother was a shade under 6 feet tall and his father stood at nearly 6 foot 4. But that doesn't begin to explain why Bruintjes grew to be 7 feet 4 inches. Or why the Dutch as a whole are now the tallest people in the world, while Americans, who held that title for two centuries, stopped growing 50 years ago. At the end of World War II, the average American male was nearly 5 foot 10, while the average Dutchman measured little more than 5 foot 7. But starting in the 1950s, the Dutch began shooting up, an average of almost an inch per decade, to the point that the average height for an adult Dutch male today is just under 6 foot 1. A new survey that measured 10,000 Dutch schoolchildren confirms their status as the world's tallest and suggests that the growth trend will keep up for at least a decade. Scandinavians and other Northern Europeans experienced similar growth spurts. So have the once-short Japanese. During the same period, Americans expanded horizontally but not vertically. The average height of the American male today is stuck at 5 feet 9 1/2 inches. U.S. women have actually lost a third of an inch and are on average slightly over 5 foot 4. "More milk products, smaller families and better hygiene--those are the main reasons why the Dutch have increased in length," Bruintjes said. "But I also think there must be something in our genetic makeup." Genetics may hold some answers to why Bruintjes, 53, is at least a head taller than his neighbors, but researchers say it doesn't shed much light on why the Dutch as a whole are so much taller than the Americans or the Italians or the Greeks. John Komlos, a professor of anthropometric history at the University of Munich, is the leading expert in the field. "Anthropometric is my own coinage. My focus is to understand how social and economic processes affect growth," said Komlos, who is 59 and 5 foot 7. The son of Hungarian refugees who fled the 1956 Soviet crackdown, Komlos grew up in Chicago, graduated from Lane Tech High School and got doctorates in economics and history at the University of Chicago. He became interested in height as an economic barometer after a lecture by Robert Fogel, the University of Chicago Nobel laureate who published a landmark study on the slave economy in the American South. African-American slaves, it seems, were significantly taller than their African ancestors but shorter than their owners for reasons that defied conventional wisdom. "People with better incomes and higher educations are taller. Everywhere and always," Komlos said. "Even in communist countries that were supposed to be classless. It's one of the basic laws of heights." To track human growth patterns, Komlos began collecting data on the heights of Crimean War soldiers, 18th Century London waifs, indentured servants and West Point graduates. "The difference between the poor classes in England during the time of the Industrial Revolution--the Oliver Twist segment of the population--and the upper classes was 22 centimeters [8.7 inches] at age 15. That's the biggest recorded difference that we've seen," he said. Among London's 18th and 19th Century poor, grown men barely reached the stature of today's 12-year-old girls. The reason, Komlos said, was disease and crowding in urban areas, plus a diet with very little meat. American colonists, meanwhile, grew. During the American Revolution, a Continental Army soldier stood 4 inches taller than his British counterpart. Today, the tables have turned. British men are a few millimeters taller than U.S. men. Americans lost some stature as the nation industrialized and urbanized at the time of the Civil War, but quickly regained it toward the end of the century as the economy expanded and public sanitation improved. The U.S. remains the wealthiest country in the world. So why have Americans not grown upward since the mid-1950s? And why have the Dutch and other Europeans shot up? Komlos and other experts believe the answer lies in the uneven distribution of wealth in America and better access to health care in Europe. Economists calculate income distribution according to the Gini coefficient, named for Italian sociologist Corrado Gini. It measures distribution of national income from zero to one, where zero indicates perfectly equal distribution and one is where one person gets it all. "It doesn't say anything about income levels, just how evenly it's distributed," Komlos said. Not surprisingly, the Netherlands and Scandinavian countries rank at the low end of the scale. The U.S. is at the high end. Komlos said that while the U.S. has a very high gross national product, 14 percent of its population has no health insurance and some 35 million live below the poverty line. As a result, many American children eat poorly and have limited access to health care during their crucial growth years. "It's unusual that such a rich country is not willing to invest more in its children," he said. Given the gap between rich and poor in the U.S., one might expect to find two Americas--a tall one and a short one. "I agree. One should think there would be, but I haven't found it. I'm still looking," Komlos said. "We do know that wealthier people are taller. The point is, they have not gotten any taller over the last 50 years." In the Netherlands, where the population's ever-increasing height is a favorite topic of conversation, the consensus among experts is that the country's excellent health-care system and a diet heavy on dairy products are the main factors responsible for the Dutch growth spurt. Bruintjes is modest about his height. Seven feet 4 inches, he said, barely puts him in the Top 20 of tall people in the Netherlands. His large frame easily accommodates his 350-pound bulk, which in turn lends a certain authority to his work as a security guard at a TV station. "If I say go left, they go left. No one is arguing with me," he said with a chuckle. Bruintjes also is president of Talleuro, an advocacy group for tall people in Europe. Thanks to the group's lobbying efforts, the Dutch parliament last year passed laws that increase the minimum height for ceilings in residential buildings from 2.4 meters to 2.6 meters. Door lintels have been raised from 2.1 meters to 2.3 meters. Beginning this year, new hotels and office buildings also have had to meet these standards. "Clothing is the main issue," said Bruintjes, explaining that a significant percentage of the Dutch population no longer fits into the largest standard sizes. "Also furniture and public transport," he said, pointing out that even people a foot shorter have trouble stretching out on a standard-size hotel bed or squeezing into an airplane seat. When you are as tall as the Dutch, he said, the standard-size world can seem like a small place. I wanna be Dutch now!