Water and good hygiene can make you taller

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

Tsukubai
This beautiful little washing station is called a Tsukubai, and is used at a Japanese temple for symbolic hand washing and mouth rinsing.

I always have to yell at my little brother to wash his hands, especially around dinnertime. Oh man, you’d think I was asking him to vacuum the whole house and run around the block 10 times! He crosses his arms, frowns, and rolls his eyes. Now, though, I’ve got a secret bit of knowledge that’ll definitely give him some motivation. Next time he resists hand washing, I’ll say to him, “If you don’t wash your hands… you won’t grow as tall as the other boys who do!” According to a team of researchers led by Alan Dangour of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, I’d be absolutely correct!

Hygiene, which is a set of practices that keep you healthy – like brushing your teeth, showering, and washing your hands during the day – is very important. Good hygiene reduces your risk of being exposed to yucky germs found on everything from bacteria hotspots like water fountains to door knobs. Dangour and his researchers discovered that kids ages four and younger who washed their hands, drank clean water, and used well-maintained toilets, were on average 0.2 inches taller than the ones who didn’t!

“The absolute difference in height is not large, but stunting is associated with many negative health and economic outcomes,” says Anna Bowen,  a scientist from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “Therefore, increasing the… height of the population even slightly could have benefits.”

As for Dangour, they did not try to figure out whether it was water, good hygiene, or sanitation (keeping public places clean) that most affected growth. “The whole package is important,” Dangour said. “So we didn’t want to separate them out.”

Moral of the story? Keep your surroundings clean, keep yourself clean, and drink clean water! It just might make you a bit taller, kids!

Featured image courtesy of Serenity on Wikipedia. Japanese hand washing Tsukubai image courtesy of Michael Maggs on Wikipedia.