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Proof that nutrition is improving, the country’s getting richer

Remember that one about WWI? The finding that the working class squaddies, on being called up, were 6 inches shorter than the middle and upper class officer types? That is, poor nutrition led to stunting:

Teachers have claimed that going to work is “like walking into the land of the giants” because their pupils are now so tall and heavy.

The weight of 14-year-old-male students has ballooned from an average of 5st 10lb in 1970 to 8.5st, according to one of the leaders of the NASUWT.

The average height is also said to have risen in the past 50 years from 4ft 10in to 5ft 8in, Elaine Paling told delegates at the teaching union’s annual conference in Birmingham on Sunday.

Those figures aren’t correct but imagine they are. What should we make of them?

That Britain has become markedly richer over these 50 years. That the genetic potential of all – OK, more – has been able to shine through in the absence of that stunting. diets have become better for children that is.

Quite the opposite of what we’re normally told, eh?

29 thoughts on “Proof that nutrition is improving, the country’s getting richer”

  1. The Dutch are the tallest people in Europe. Grandchildren of the Hunger Winter of 1944. And Ukrainians? I haven’t looked it up.

  2. Comparing heights at age twenty five is more useful: the associated growth spurt of puberty depends on onset. Swedish data from late eighteenth century shows average age of menarche ie onset of menstruation as seventeen so the growth spurt is later.

  3. I can understand the nutrition gap and therefore height between those born 1920s to 1950s and those in 70s 80s. When Tim wrote about The Road to wigan pier the diet was in pretty stark contrast..(Jam,marge,bread and tea were 80% of it) but what’s the contrast between kids food in the 70s, 80s,s and the ones of 2000’s, that lead to all these lanky 14 y.o.s?

  4. Must be an error in the data
    Child poverty has been rising.
    People depending on food banks.
    Marcus Rashford campaigning for children to be fed in the holidays.
    Half of parents don’t know how to cook.
    Kids taking less exercise and having more screen time.
    School playing fields sold off.
    Tiny houses you can barely stand upright in.
    The Tories the Tories the bastards.

  5. ‘… but what’s the contrast between kids food in the 70s, 80s,s and the ones of 2000’s, that lead to all these lanky 14 y.o.s?‘

    Their parents could afford more of it in the 2000s? Jobs have changed, wages gone up, increased globalised trade has made things, particularly food, less expensive.

  6. The kids stopped eating Angel Delight.

    The primary use now for this dessert is to accompany celebration of goals by lady football players. And if it isnt it bloody should be.

  7. @HallowedBe, I think most of that increase took place in the 70s and early 80s. I don’t recall heights at 14, but when I was 18 in the mid-80s, average boys’ height was 6′.

  8. Angel Delight. Yuk! However Birds had a predecessor, Instant Whip, in the 60s. The butterscotch flavour one was food of the gods to this kid!

  9. Reading the Telegraph’s comments, there’s a rather surprisingly popular idea that the size increase is more-than-possibly a function of the number of 25+ year-old “children” being imported by rubber-dinghy.. 🙂

  10. “‘… but what’s the contrast between kids food in the 70s, 80s,s and the ones of 2000’s, that lead to all these lanky 14 y.o.s?‘”

    My guess is more meat. The price of rump steak has risen below the rate of inflation for 40 years. Should be about £23, is more like £16. Cheaper cuts have the same effect. I doubt anyone but the single mothers in a council flat are skipping meat because of the price.

  11. “Those figures aren’t correct”: obvs, because it was “according to one of the leaders of the NASUWT”.

  12. The message seems t be “we need smaller class sizes because todays kids don’t fit in the classroom”
    Or to put it another way we need to hire more teachers.

  13. Explains why second gen South Asian and East Asian immigrants seem to be giants quite so often.

    Sudanese Indians seem to be 6-7 foot tall when their parents were barely 5 foot tall.

  14. @BoM4, Combination of protein and “calories” in the form of fat as building blocks, and carbohydrates to fuel it all. Helps that a lot of “superprocessed” foods have added essential vitamins/minerals as well.

    And looking at the males is the wrong way to go about it.. We’re designed to grow big and burly if given half the chance. Something with our natural function as chaser-off of predators and Competition.
    It’s the average size/height of females that’s much more interesting to look at when it comes to the effects of diet and trends.

  15. Yeat Another Chris

    Nutrition has certainly improved. I was born after the war. My mum kept my ration book (and identity card). Compared to what my kids had to eat when they were growing up, my brother and I were very poorly off. Needless to say, our kids are taller and heavier than us. In turn, their kids are obviously going to be taller and heftier still. Hell, our 12-year-old grandson is taller than my wife! Clearly nutrition is a big factor.

  16. It isn’t *just* increasing wealth leading to better nutrition – as a middle-class child I was well-fed (my parents put their children’s health and education ahead of their comforts and luxuries so my father was cycling into work until he was 49) and at 14 I was under 7 stone (yes, still more than 5 stone 10lbs but I utterly disbelieve that figure).
    Some of it is due to *bad* eating habits leading to obesity in children (casual observation suggests it is worse in girls than boys but you cannot expect the NASUWT to admit that).

  17. hmmm… nope.. mcDonalds is one of the very few things they’re actually right about. For the wrong reasons, but still…mostly right.

  18. Editor Fix:
    Was getting richer until Green Crap and Health Zazis engaged reverse

    @Tractor Gent, April 18, 2022 at 9:24 am
    Angel Delight. Yuk! However Birds had a predecessor, Instant Whip, in the 60s. The butterscotch flavour one was food of the gods to this kid

    Oh God, yes. I was still buying it until it vanished from shelves, that and Greene’s Creme Caramel were my favourite cold deserts. Both made from pint of milk so nutritous too

    “Price of meat”

    Yes, my thought too. Less veg, more animal protein

    “Female heights” – Good point, I see many short 16 yo+ girls

  19. Pcar, not sure i should be admitting that last point in a public space, what with you (appearing to be) of a certain age and all that. However, and notwithstanding my comment:

    There appear to be a lot of 16 year old girls who are wider (girth) than they are tall……….

    Milk pudding….
    Birds Custard (potentially lethal, I know, but delish).

    “No such thing as bad food, only bad diet”.

  20. Went to a boys’ secondary school in the ’90s. 14-year-olds would be Year 9, or “third form” as we called it, using the old metric as an act of rebellion. I had just about hit 6′ at that point and was the tallest in my year — by the smallest of margins — and the shortest lads were well over 5’… a 5’8″ average nearly 30 years ago sounds about right. Don’t remember weights, but 8½ st for a 5’8″ teenage boy sounds perfectly healthy, almost as if this “obesity epidemic” is but a steaming pile.

    Would be funny how the teachers can’t do consistent units — 4st 10lbs vs. 8.5st. — if they weren’t teaching our kids.

  21. Angel Delight. Great stuff, I still buy the Chocolate and strawberry flavour occasionally. Lovely. I liked Birds dream topping too. All replaced by facings of tofu, quinoa and gluten free cardboard.

  22. AFAIK,as 50% of your genetic material i.e. the egg is formed when your mother was in your grandmothers womb, the nutrition / general diet of your granny will have an effect?
    Takes 40+ years to become evident

  23. Dutch people are so tall because natural selection has favoured those who could keep their heads above water

  24. tsk, James…

    As any fule knowetheth we simply needed bigger fingers to better plug our dikes.
    The rest sort of followed naturally.. 😛

  25. @Addolff , Matt

    Yep, from observation of public of all ages, the obesity crisis is predominantly females

    Supermarket I use most has two fat male staff, but ~50% of female staff are fat / obese. The sheer width of their lower half is mind boggling

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