Many young people want to increase their height. However, a study by nutritionists at the University of Bonn shows that they do not benefit from increased protein intake in terms of their adult size, only girls benefit.
On the other hand, young women often see it as a problem if their height is significantly higher than 1.80 meters. A protein intake adapted to the recommendations can even cause a reduction of a few centimeters during growth. The results were previously published online in the “Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.”
“For the first time, the study shows the anabolic potency of the essential nutrient protein with detailed nutritional data over a period from 3 to 17 years of age,” reported Prof. Dr. Tomás Remer. Together with first author Yifan Hua, he evaluated precise nutritional protocols, regular 24-hour urine collections, and specific height measurements of children and adolescents from the age of three years at the DONALD Study Center Dortmund at the University of Bonn (DOrtmund Nutritional and Anthropometric Longitudinally Designed Study). A total of 189 healthy girls and boys were examined. The researchers recorded protein intake not only through nutritional survey data, but also by measuring urinary urea nitrogen excretion.
While there was no effect on height in boys and young men due to increased protein intake, there was a clear correlation in girls. According to the scientists’ calculations, an average increase of about seven grams of protein per day above the recommended intake leads to an average increase in size of one centimeter. “If gaining height is not desired, girls can even reduce their later adult height by a few centimeters during growth by adapting their protein intake to the recommendations, i.e. forgoing higher protein intake,” says Remer.
In boys there are interactions with sex hormones
Based on the available data, protein still has clear growth-promoting effects in girls, even if intake is clearly above the requirement. “This size effect does not seem to play a decisive role in children with a protein intake higher than required,” explains Yifan Hua. “Apparently the significantly stronger effects of sex hormones, including testosterone, on the growth hormone axis leave less room for additional anabolic nutritional effect via protein.” per day for teens ages 15 to 17, according to scientists.
In reality, however, the daily protein intake for many children is considerably higher, sometimes by a factor of 1.7 to 2. “The possible long-term consequences of a correspondingly high protein intake have not yet been satisfactorily investigated.” says Prof. Remer. “In previous studies, we could only see positive correlations with higher protein intake for bone stability, as long as fruit and vegetable intake was not too low and dietary-related acid load was not too high.”
The Donald Studio
The DONALD study is a long-term study on the effects of nutrition on physiological and health-related parameters during and after growth, funded by the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Currently more than 1000 healthy children, adolescents and young adults participate. Since 1985, detailed data on nutrition, growth, development, metabolism, and health status have been collected from test subjects at regular intervals from infancy through adulthood. Since January 2012, the long-term study carried out in Dortmund has been part of the Institute for Nutrition and Food Sciences (IEL) at the University of Bonn.
(Johannes Seiler, Department 8 – University Communication, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn)
Sources: idw-online.de, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn, Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism