Unfortunately, being height-conscious starts from the early days of preschool with teachers calling out “line up in size order." A person’s stature is highly contingent upon the genes he has inherited from his parents and how quickly he grows during puberty. According to Kids Health, boys on average end their growth spurt by age 16, whereas girls reach their final adult height by age 14 or 15 (younger or older depending on when they first hit puberty). Genetic conditions may have an impact on the growth rate of individuals. Sufferers of the the genetic iron overload disorder, HFE hemochromatosis, for instance, were found to experience a height boost by the time they reach adulthood, according to researchers from the University Hospital in Zurich, Switzerland.

Findings published in the New England Journal of Medicine examined the effects of excess iron on height in 176 Swiss adult patients with HFE hemochromatosis — an iron overload disease that develops when the body absorbs too much iron for many years and the excess iron builds up in organ tissues. Data on the average height of the Swiss population was obtained from the Swiss Federal Statistical Office and military records in order to age- and sex-match HFE hemochromatosis patients to Swiss adults without the chronic condition. The participants with an iron overload were found to be, on average, 1.3 cm (men) and 3.3 cm (women) taller than the average Swiss population who was, on average, 173.9 cm and 163.8 cm tall, respectively.

"We speculate that patients with HFE hemochromatosis may benefit in their first 2 decades from constantly enhanced iron absorption, providing a steadily sufficient supply of iron during physical development," wrote authors Pietro E. Cippa, M.D., Ph.D., and Pierre-Alexandre Krayenbuehl, M.D., both of University Hospital in Zurich. Cippa and Krayenbuehl observed this trend and correlated it with the fact that an iron deficiency most often leads to growth delay. Iron is an essential nutrient for a child’s growth and development, says Mayo Clinic. During puberty, the growth rate affects the iron status of normal children because the body’s demand for iron tends to exceed the supply at this time. The researchers noted in their study that children who have chronically high levels of iron would not have these shortages and may therefore end up taller than children of average height.

All 176 individuals in the study had the C282Y mutation in the HFE gene — 85 percent of people with elevated iron levels possess two copies of this mutation, says Hemochromatosis.org. Seven percent of the participants with the HFE gene also had the H63D mutation, a modifier of disease onset and progression. According to Hemochromatosis.org, carriers of this gene mutation are at risk for an earlier onset and duration of kidney disease.

The American Hemochromatosis Society has named the iron overload disease as the “Celtic Curse” because those of Northern European descent are at higher risk of developing the common genetic disease in their region. Cippa and Krayenbuehl decided to compare the heights of the HFE Swiss participants to those of an Irish reference population to determine if high iron levels were associated with increased height. "The deviation in height from the reference population remained stable over time and did not correlate with the type of HFE mutation, body-mass index, serum ferritin level, liver enzyme elevation, liver fibrosis, or clinical manifestations such as arthropathy or hypogonadism," wrote the researchers.

While the researchers found elevated iron levels may be linked to increased height in adults, they do not recommend parents to give their children iron supplements to increase their growth by the time they reach adulthood. Cippa and Krayenbuehl stated in an online appendix to their published article that it is not clear when or how long the iron supplementation may take effect, reports Everyday Health. Further research has to be done on the effect of iron supplementation on height throughout different times of puberty to measure its effectiveness. The longest iron supplementation trial lasted 52 weeks, according to the researchers. Adding more iron to your diet may “inhibit the absorption of other essential nutrients.”

Natural Ways To Look Taller

If you want to add some extra inches to your height, there are natural ways to appear taller. To boost your height without surgery or drugs, follow these tips:

  • Stand up and sit down with your back straight. A proper posture can add the inch or two that is often hidden when you slouch.
  • Wear pants that have a long inseam and do not flare at the bottom. This can help you look taller by elongating your legs.
  • Wear solid colors that contrast; wearing prints can make you look shorter.
  • Heels can add inches to your height instantly, or try shoes with a thicker sole if you seek extra comfort.