Height matters. At least, that's the verdict of a University of Florida study that found tall people are more successful in their careers than shorter people. If so, maybe it’s time to heed mom's classic bedtime reminder: Drink your milk. But does drinking milk actually contribute to your final height?
What Determines Height?
Milk may provide health benefits for kids and adults alike, but it does not have a significant effect on your final height as an adult. Extensive studies show that about 60 percent to 80 percent of your height is determined by genetics, while 20 percent to 40 percent is attributed to your environment--mainly, the food you eat. If you want to make the most out of the percentage attributed to environmental factors, proper nutrition and good lifestyle habits should be in effect before you hit puberty--as most people stop growing by the age of 21.
Most of us are close in height to our parents, as genetic studies on height shows. But depending on your ethnic background, the percentage attributed to genetic factors varies. The final height of Asians and Africans, for example, is only about 65 percent due to their genes. On the other hand, 80 percent (or higher) of an American or Australian’s height is attributed to genetics.
Still, adequate nutrition in childhood can help you grow taller. And that is where milk can contribute. Milk contains calcium and vitamin D, nutrients that can help build strong bones. If you are allergic to milk, other non-dairy sources of calcium are green leafy vegetables and nuts. But remember that the most important nutrient for final height is protein, which you could get from plant foods, fish, poultry, meats and dairy.
If you’re under 21 and want to achieve your maximum height, then it’s time to cut sodas and sweet drinks out of your diet. These drinks are high in phosphorus, which is bad for your bones. A recent study in Chile, in which overweight children who were heavy soda-drinkers were given milk instead, shows that male subjects grew a little taller and leaner.
Good posture, sleep habits, minimal stress and regular exercise also play a role in maximizing your stature.
Other Health Benefits
Milk may not be a primary height booster, but it certainly has a lot of nutrients that are good for your body. According to the National Dairy Council, drinking milk "reduces the risk of osteoporosis, hypertension and colon cancer." Milk is also said to reduce the risk of tooth decay by fighting cavity-promoting substances such as sucrose.