Linear growth during three distinct stages of life determines attained stature in adulthood: namely, in utero, early postnatal life, and puberty and the adolescent period. Individual host factors, genetics, and the environment, including nutrition, influence attained human stature. Each period of physical growth has its specific biological and environmental considerations. Recent epidemiologic investigations reveal a strong influence of prenatal factors on linear size at birth that in turn influence the postnatal growth trajectory. Although average population height changes have been documented in high-income regions, stature as a complex human trait is not well understood or easily modified. This review summarizes the biology of linear growth and its major drivers including nutrition from a life-course perspective, the genetics of programmed growth patterns or height, and gene–environment interactions that determine human stature in toto over the life span. Implications for public health interventions and knowledge gaps are discussed.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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