Does being overweight stunt growth?
Does being overweight have an effect on height growth in children and young adults? Do fat children grow taller or shorter than their slimmer counterparts? These are very important questions to many young people and parents.
Before we talk about the most recent research, let’s go over some of the reasons why an overweight child may or may not grow tall. One popular notion is that the excess fat on their body “drags them down” and prevents bones from growing vertically. But if you read the question about weightlifting and height, you would find this theory unlikely to hold grounds. Others believe that more fat means better nutrition, and nutrition means better growth and taller children. Another more scientifically-involved reason why weight may affect growth is estrogen levels. Fat is known to convert certain hormones into estrogen. It is theorized that excess estrogen causes girls to hit puberty early, which makes them to go through early but shortened growth spurt. The results are shorter stature as adult women.
Regardless of what theory is popular, there is a vibe in the scientific community to want to prove that fat people are shorter so the public can be convinced that being overweight is unhealthy.
The kicker is… being overweight generally does not stunt height growth. In fact, fat children are taller, at least at the very beginning. The most recent research on this topic found that overweight children tend to be taller than their peers between 9 to 13 years of age. After that, the gap in height begin to disappear. By the time these children become adults, they are neither shorter or taller than people of regular weight.
So there, overweight children will generally not become shorter than their normal weight peers. However, it is important to keep in mind that being overweight is associated with higher rates of diabetes, heart disease, and other medical problems. Also, some rare deformities may occur in overweight and young individuals and cause shorter height. Blout disease is a bow legged deformity likely caused by morbid obesity, in which heavy body weight bends the tibia. Slipped capital femoral epiphysis, which is basically a fracture in the hip, is also caused by obesity in a young child.