Why are some people shorter than others? The answer is in our brains, say scientists
Have you ever wondered why you might be little shorter than your friends or family?
Perhaps you’re at the other end of the spectrum, sick of people asking “what’s the weather like up there?”.
Well, scientists believe the mystery of why humans are growing taller and reaching puberty earlier is due to a sensor in the brain.
We already know that better nutrition leads to greater height as humans have been growing taller on the whole in recent centuries. Better nutrition also causes people to reach maturity faster as well.
Genes also play a role in how tall we become and we all grow and look according to the codes in our DNA.
A lack of nutrition makes it harder for us to reach the full potential of our own genes. According to the University of Maryland, our body requires a certain amount of energy to make us grow.
They said: “For our body to follow the code in our instructions booklets, it needs energy. Energy comes from eating food, and more importantly, eating healthy food. If we don’t eat, we won’t grow.
“Even if the code in our instruction booklets is telling our body to grow tall. Some children get to eat lots of food that makes them grow. Other children may not get enough food or don’t eat healthy food.”
We have known this for a long time, but the new study suggests that this brain receptor could be responsible for our growth.
So how does it work?
Joint research was carried out by the University of Cambridge, Queen Mary University of London, the University of Michigan, Vanderbilt University and the University of Bristol.
They showed that there is a brain receptor – MC3R – responsible for signals from food reaching a part of the brain called the hypothalamus.
The hypothalamus is responsible for keeping things in check like body temperature and regulating appetite and weight, this was already well known and has been thoroughly studied.
MC3R not working properly tends to mean that people are shorter and started puberty much later
Professor Sir Stephen O’Rahilly, one of the authors of the study, told the BBC: “It tells the body we’re great here, we’ve got lots of food, so grow quickly, have puberty soon and make lots of babies.
“It’s not just magic – we have the complete wiring diagram for how it happens.”
There is an awful lot about the brain we still do not know. But, this research could lead to further development of drugs for children with delayed growth and puberty starting much later.
More understanding of the receptor won’t mean that we can make ourselves taller. That all still depends on genes, but it could help people with chronic illnesses who need to build up muscle.
“Future research should investigate if drugs that selectively activate the MC3R might help redirect calories into muscle and other lean tissues, with the prospect of improving the physical functionality of such patients,” O’Rahilly said.