How big your children grow up later depends on many factors. One of them is nutrition. In a long-term study, researchers investigated the role that protein intake during childhood and adolescence plays in the later growth of girls and boys. Consequently, too much protein in girls can lead to greater growth. Medium plus seven grams of protein per day more than recommended is associated with an adult’s growth of one centimeter. On the other hand, there was no association between protein intake and height in boys.
Many boys want to be as tall as possible when they grow up. On the other hand, for girls, a particularly high body size is often considered less desirable. The most important factor influencing the child’s later growth is the height of the parents. They pass on to their offspring the disposition of particularly tall or small stature through many different genes. Hormone levels also play a role. This is where drug therapies come in to treat children who are excessively large or small in size. But diet is also important.
More proteins = more growth?
Yifan Hua and Thomas Remer of the University of Bonn now assessed a long-term study on child and adolescent nutrition in relation to the question of how protein intake affects the growth of later adult girls and boys. “This is the first time a study demonstrates the anabolic potency of an essential nutritional protein with detailed nutritional data from 3 to 17 years,” says Remer. In this context, the growth-promoting effect is referred to as the anabolic force.
To this end, researchers analyzed diet diaries, 24-hour urine collection, and height measurements from 189 healthy girls and boys. As part of the DONALD (Dortmund Nutritional and Anthropometric Longitudinally Designed Study) study, subjects were recruited into the study as infants and were regularly included in the studies in adulthood. The study has been running since 1985 and covers a total of over 1,000 children, adolescents and young adults. Hua and Remer recorded protein intake on the one hand with food diaries and on the other hand measured protein breakdown products in the urine. They also took into account other factors such as parental size, total energy consumption, and socioeconomic conditions in their calculations.
Excess protein affects the growth of women
Outcome: Although there was no effect on height in boys who ate particularly high amounts of protein, there was a clear correlation in girls who consumed particularly high amounts of protein. For them, the protein content of the food had an effect if it exceeded the daily recommendations. The German Nutrition Society recommends 0.8 to 0.9 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight for girls, for example 48 grams of protein for a teenager weighing 60 kg. According to studies, even an additional consumption of seven grams of protein per day is associated with an adult height of one centimeter in girls. Some of the children and adolescents in the study consumed significantly more protein, sometimes twice as much as recommended.
“If an increase in height is not desired, girls can even reduce their later adult height by a few centimeters during growth by adjusting their protein intake as recommended, ie by not increasing their protein intake,” Remer says. In boys, on the other hand, the researchers found no link between protein intake and height. “It seems that the much stronger action of sex hormones – including testosterone – on the growth hormone axis in them leaves less room for the additional anabolic nutritional effect through protein,” explains Hua.
Source: Yifan Hua (University of Bonn) et al., Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, doi: 10.1210 / clinem / dgac205;