A new study of children in the Finnish city of Espoo has uncovered new standards for national physical growth curves. The report showed that today’s children are not only larger at birth than their parents, but that they are growing faster and have bigger heads.
“Because of the obsolete curves, children who are normal have been defined as oversized. Many have been sent unnecessarily to be tested,” according to Professor of Paediatrics at the University of Eastern Finland Leo Dunkel.
Helsingin Sanomat reports that increased numbers of mothers breastfeeding is one of the primary reasons for the increase in growth. “How babies are fed influences the rest of their lives. Nowadays children get more energy from their food and they use it mainly for growth,” said Dunkel.
The new information may lead to a rethink of pre-established national growth curves updates of which will be made available later this year with an option for Finnish municipalities to adopt the new data, which also shows faster growth in teenagers.
Boys of 14 are now on average 5cm taller than their parents’ generation, while 12 year-old girls are 3cm taller than previous figures. “The puberty growth spurt comes earlier than before. Why this is, we do not know. The average height of adults has nevertheless changed by only two centimetres,” says Dunkel. The average Finnish adult male stands 181cm tall, with women averaging 167.5cm.