I USED to think that the relatively shorter body heights among Filipinos are genetic in origin. I still believe that it is so for a large population among us.

However, I came to doubt that genetics is the only probable explanation to this phenomenon, considering the fact that genetics are significantly influenced by external factors such as nutrition. And nutrition deficiency is a classic indicator of poverty.

The Philippine Statistics Authority reported a poverty incidence among Filipinos in 2015 at 21.6 percent, while food threshold incidence at 8.1 percent. Food threshold is the minimum income necessary for a Filipino household to place basic food on its table and satisfy its daily nutritional requirements.

The PNoy (former president Noynoy Aquino) administration had accomplished a lot in bringing these incidences down from their 2009 state, which was 26.3 percent for poverty incidence and 10.9 percent for subsistence incidence. Evidently, previous years had been far higher, which brings us to a reasonable inference that the Filipino height may be largely an outcome of poverty, which found its way into the Filipino genes.

This belief was reinforced when I took hold of a recent study co-authored by researchers at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine in Manila (Palmera Baltazar, Luz Acosta, Remigio Olveda and Veronical Tallo) and the Remedios Trinidad Romualdez Hospital in Tacloban City (Baltazar, Edna Ayaso and Donna Bella Monterde). The study was primarily authored by Rachel Blake and Sangshin Park both of The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University (Providence, Rhode Island). The research article was published in PLoS ONE July 2016.

The study involved 357 infants born in Leyte with data obtained within 48 hours after delivery and followed up thereafter at one month, six months and 12 months. It concluded that low birth weights and small-for-gestational age infants in their first month of life cannot catch up their expected heights even after 12 months of age. This delay evidently can have height repercussions in the succeeding years.

Elizabeth Berg wrote in Talk Before Sleep: “One thing I have always been is too short. It’s adorable when you’re in junior high. After that, it’s a pain in the ass for the rest of your life.” Winston Churchill looked shorter to me than average, as well as Ramon Magsaysay. So it is not really that bad. However, thinking of Napoleon Bonaparte, Adolf Hitler, and some of our past dishonorable presidents, however, more than evens out the consolation.