High height is considered an advantage, a sign of health and strength. And for a gift, for a genetic endowment. Is that really so? Can growth be affected or whatever we do is recorded in our DNA?
There are two main stages of growth in a normal person. The first is from birth to two years of age and is associated with the rapid adaptation of the body to the environment and its independence and autonomy – the newborn must grow quickly and begin to walk, eat only. The next peak in human growth is between 11 and 14 years for girls, and 13 to 17 for boys, when they grow rapidly and their genital scars appear.
People reach their “bone peak” at maturity, at the age of 20. We say bone because growth depends primarily on the elongation of the human skeleton. After the age of 20, the ability of bones to grow is minimal. In old age, common bone diseases, such as osteoporosis, also occur. They lead to degradation of bone tissue, which accelerates over time and disrupts important areas of bone, including growth.
How does growth take place?
Simply put, the bone has a growth zone at its ends (pineal gland), in which something like cartilage is formed during active growth. This cartilage calcifies, ossifies. Eventually it becomes part of the bone itself and growth stops.
Who influences growth?
Why is it one for some, different for others? The main factor here is hormones. A group of them perform the so-called. morphogenesis in the body, ie roughly speaking, affect its shape and size. The first of these is the somatotropic hormone. A major hormone of the pituitary gland, it is also responsible for growth. Its high concentration increases the cartilage of the bone and slows down calcification. It is also a major factor determining the delay in the “closure” of the pineal gland. In other words, its concentration during puberty depends on how long and how high a person will grow.
Another hormone with a pronounced effect on growth is testosterone. Male sex hormone, secreted in women in minimal quantities, it affects bone metabolism positively. However, its high concentration closes bone receptors for somatotropic hormone and so it can cause premature growth arrest.
This practically means that the intake of steroids, most often precursors and testosterone derivatives is very likely to stop growth!
The thyroid and parathyroid glands also affect the process. For example, thyroid hormone is crucial for normal protein and other metabolism in the bone cell. Parathyroid parathyroid hormone affects bone calcium metabolism. However, their influence is secondary and deviations can rather harm the growth process. Genetics, genetics and genetics again. This is what comes to mind as we read these lines. Everything seems to lead there. Hormones and hormonal balance, a certain age of growth … everything seems predestined. Is that right?
“A comparison between parents and children or between identical and fraternal twins shows that genetic factors predetermine 60% to 80% of the differences in individual peak bone mass. Inheritance of bone mass most likely depends on several genes that have not yet been identified, but are being extensively studied in a number of research centers around the world. It should be emphasized that, given the role of heredity, lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise can often be underestimated. “
This statement dramatically changes the direction of our thoughts. Obviously, like all other body functions, growth is dependent on the genetic type, but is also influenced by the environment (phenotype). Mentioned factors are physical activity and nutrition.
Is it possible for sport to affect growth?
Yes. The bones are subject to the force of gravity, it is their main obstacle to growth, they first overcome it on their way “up” in all its forms – body weight, gravity on the bone itself and others. A number of sports also “fight” with it. Here is what the professor adds about this problem:
“Young bones respond more effectively to exercise than the bones of older people. The most preferred are antigravity exercises (those that counteract gravity) – walking, gymnastics, aerobics, ball games, competitive sports, dancing. Children and adolescents who exercise regularly show a significant increase in bone mass. “
Therefore, sports such as basketball, volleyball, jumping, leverage, dancing, swimming and others in old age can have a significant beneficial effect on the growth of the skeletal system. There is also unpleasant news for fitness and strength sports fans. Strength lifting, wrestling and other sports increase the gravitational force on the bones and if done too intensely or too strenuously, can adversely affect growth. Use them sparingly!
And how does food affect?
The connection here is clear. Bones grow in a similar way as muscles: they look for an accelerated metabolism and suitable building blocks and nutrients. Sports nutrition several times a day, combined with appropriate nutrients will have a beneficial effect on their development. As long as it contains what they need. And they need:
Calcium – calcium is an extremely important element contained in dairy products and a key building block of bones, it is also involved, for example, in muscle contraction.
Phosphorus – an important element for the living organism, based on DNA. And, of course, in the construction of the skeletal system. You can get it, for example, from fish products.
Vitamin D – a vitamin that promotes calcium synthesis. You can also get it through food, but even direct sun exposure will help the skin to synthesize it on its own.
These are the basic building blocks. Take the advice: do not overdo it! Intake of minerals, especially from artificial sources and in excessive amounts can have the exact opposite effect: lead to stunted growth. Try to get the minimum necessary, and through food, not to look for maximum doses! Nutrition and lifestyle can also negatively affect growth. Examples in this regard are:
Soft drinks. Frequent use of some soft drinks has been found to lead to reduced bone resorption of calcium, hence reduced growth and reduced and pliable bone mass.
Alcohol: There are no studies in children, but in adults it has been found to support osteoporosis (bone breakdown). We advise you to avoid it.
Tobacco: A direct link has not been proven, but smoking is thought to activate certain catabolic hormones that interfere with bone mass formation as a whole.
So, to summarize: The basis for your growth is the growth of the skeletal system. You are most likely to be able to actively influence him in adolescence, up to 20 years. The ways of influence are through sports without heavy physical exertion, proper nutrition and avoidance of any harmful influences, such as smoking, alcohol and others. At this age, your body is too active hormonally and only directs your growth, you are only expected to help it.
Even if you have passed this age, you should not despair. There is still something to achieve. Even if you are no longer able to grow, working to grow your body’s bones is an investment that will help you avoid harmful and degrading skeletal changes over time.