Over the last hundred years, people have grown significantly taller: all countries have recorded an increase in average human height. And since the end of the last century, another trend has been added to this trend: constant weight gain. But if the reasons for the spread of obesity are more or less clear, then scientists are still only speculating about our “stretching”.
What versions of what is happening? How will this affect your health? During the XVIII All-Russian Congress “Nutriciology and Dietetics for the Health of the Russian Population,” scientists presented the results of a study of anthropometric indicators of Moscow youth over the past 100 years and talked about our future prospects.
The trend of population “growth” is observed throughout the world, but in different countries it occurs at different rates. Thus, between 1880 and 1980, the body length of young men in Portugal increased by 3.7 cm, and in the Netherlands - by 15.1 cm.
Women in Europe grew more slowly during this period: from 1 cm (in England) to 3 cm in the Czech Republic. But if until the 70-80s there were trends towards an increase in muscle tissue and a decrease in body fat, then everything went the other way around: the obesity epidemic began to gain momentum in the world.
According to Professor, Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Director of the Federal Research Center for Nutrition, Biotechnology and Food Safety Dmitry Nikityuk, in 1977 the average body weight of a Russian was 70 kg and height - 170 cm. In 2017, we grew to 176.9 cm and weighted up to 76.9 kg. According to scientists, by 2035 the average Russian will be 178.5 cm and 78.3 kg in weight.
As the associate professor of the department of anthropology of the Faculty of Biology of Moscow State University said. M.V. Lomonosova Marina Negasheva, together with colleagues, they conducted a retrospective comparison of the body sizes of Moscow youth examined in different years, starting from the late 1920s. We used, among other things, materials from an anthropometric survey of more than 6,300 junior students from various faculties of Moscow State University, which showed the dynamics of physique indicators among boys and girls at the beginning of the 21st century, more precisely, in the period from 2000 to 2018.
As the scientist says, until the beginning of the 21st century, 17-18-year-old boys and girls in Moscow experienced “an epoch-making process of increasing body length.” The girls grew from approximately 157 cm to 167 cm, and the boys from 164 to 180 cm.
On average, since the late 1920s, body length among boys has increased by 14.4 cm, and among girls by 10.1 cm. However, since the beginning of the new century, relative stability of this indicator has been observed among both sexes. At the same time, a slight but statistically significant decrease in the massiveness of the skeleton is observed.
At the same time, starting somewhere in the seventies of the last century, young people began to steadily gain weight - and this trend continues to this day. The rate of weight gain in boys is significantly higher than that in girls, notes Marina Negasheva.
For boys, from the late 1990s to the present, body weight has increased by 4.67 kg, for girls - by 2.85 kg. Against the background of the “epochal increase in body weight”, which continues at the present time, gender differences in the growth rate of this indicator have been revealed.
Thus, a tendency to strengthen the andromorphic component of the physique in girls has been revealed. “Andromorphic type” is translated as “masculine.” That is, girls began to approach men in structure: their shoulders become wider than their hips, and the subcutaneous fat layer, which gives a woman’s body roundness, is becoming less and less.
Modern young men are characterized by a clear increase in body weight and average thickness of all fat folds. At the same time, they experience a slight decrease in the massiveness of the skeleton (a decrease in the width of the elbow, wrist and knee). With an increase in body weight, the girls began to have more subcutaneous fat on the body (under the shoulder blades and on the abdomen) and the indicators of skeletal massiveness slightly decreased.
“Along with epochal changes in body size, a transformation of the head and face was noted for both sexes, which is expressed in the processes of debrachycephalization (that is, the head becomes less rounded and more elongated - Auth.) and leptoprosopia (accordingly, the face also lengthens - Auth.). The observed changes in the morphotype of modern youth can serve as a marker of the processes of socio-economic transformation taking place in society and are important for fundamental biology, sociology and preventive medicine,” notes Negasheva.
Scientists associate changes in anthroponymic indicators with improved access to modern medicine and quality nutrition; additional factors may be the level of education of parents, average per capita income, and socio-economic status.
Variations in physique are also a marker of global changes in nutritional structure. The authors of the mentioned work found that in countries in which an increase in the consumption of animal proteins was recorded at the beginning of the 20th century, there was simultaneously an increase in the average body length in men 18–30 years old. Vitamin supply can also play a role, which is much better now than a hundred years ago.
Meanwhile, Dmitry Nikityuk notes that the types of constitutions of people are also changing: “We see fewer and fewer normal types of constitutions. A large number of Russians (62%) suffer from excess weight, and some suffer from underweight. The component composition of the body also changes: there is a tendency towards an increase in the mass of adipose tissue and osteopathy, that is, a decrease in the expression of bone tissue. And muscle mass also decreases. These are all things that can and should be countered with optimal nutrition.”
Even a new science has appeared - anthroponutrition, which studies the connection between a person’s physical and nutritional status. “Every day we need 150-180 biologically active substances, however, if we consume them with food, the diet will be equal to 3500 kcal, which is too much and will lead to obesity,” says Dmitry Nikityuk. - Today, the calorie requirement of the average man is 2100 kcal, for a woman - 1800 kcal. Therefore, the task of science today is to create specialized and functional nutrition, enriched with useful substances, and integrate it into diets in order to eliminate deficiencies of macro- and micronutrients. Optimizing nutrition is a factor that is under our control.”
The problem is that the production of such products today is heavily dependent on imported raw materials, and many companies have stopped supplying them to us. For example, we hardly produce our own vitamins (they only package imported ones), sports nutrition is made almost exclusively from imported raw materials, and baby food is mostly imported in composition.