Obese men can regain sexual function by losing weight and exercisingBMJ 2004; 328 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.328.7455.1517 (Published 24 June 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;328:1517
All rapid responses
Has our adulation of taller height promoted the obesity
Editor--The connection between taller height and better
health has been considered self-evident in the Western world
for over a century. It is also well known that if you want
taller children, produce larger infants and then feed them
abundant protein and calories. Unfortunately, these
practices also promote obesity in children and adults.1 And
it is now recognized that promoting rapid growth in height
or weight during infancy promotes later obesity. In
addition, rapid growth during infancy and childhood is
especially dangerous for low birthweight (BW) infants who
appear to be at higher risk for cardiovascular (CVD) disease
and type 2 diabetes in adulthood. [These and other
considerations have been discussed in detail in two of our
papers published in the Journal of the National Medical
Association1 and Nutrition Research2]
Part of the obesity problem is based on the fear that lower
BW, slower growth, and less than optimal nutrition are
inimical to optimum health and longevity. Based on our
research, these factors are not threats to children when
well balanced but reduced calorie nutrition and good medical
care are provided.
It is clear that there are economic and psychosocial
benefits related to taller height. However, if height is
viewed from the viewpoint of hard science, taller height is
not an important factor in promoting a healthful and
productive population. Yes, taller people tend to have
greater brute strength, can jump higher, have lower resting
heart rates, and can sustain cold weather more readily.
However, taller people have many physical and health
disadvantages based on the laws of physics and current
research findings.3,4,5 A few examples are summarized
Higher BW and greater height are tied to increased cancer
risk for most Western type cancers. Gunnell et al 6
evaluated about 300 height-cancer studies and concluded that
taller height increases the risk of cancer by 20- 60%.
Recent studies have supported these findings; e.g., taller
height is tied to higher prostate cancer in men and breast
cancer in women.
For the last 12 years, we have published our findings in
over 14 medical journals suggesting a negative relationship
between height and longevity. These studies have included a
variety of populations such as athletes, famous people, US
veterans, and ordinary citizens. We have found a reduction
in longevity of about .5 yr/cm increase in height. Data
from four other researchers have shown similar results.
Recently, a study based on about 27,000 US WW II twins found
twins had a median age of over 81 years.7 (Twins generally
weigh 1 kg less than singletons and are slightly smaller in
adulthood.) In addition, smaller monozygotic twins averaged
1.5 year longer lifespans compared to larger dizygotic
twins. (The relation of height to longevity was reviewed in
Most Western studies have found that taller people have
lower CVD rates. However, these findings appear to be an
artifact reflecting confounding due to social class,
childhood illness, rapid childhood growth, body type, and
other factors. It is well known that many populations of
short people experience very low to nonexistent CVD.9 These
include China, Japan, Greece, Crete, Papua New Guinea,
Vilcabamba, rural South Africa, Vietnam, S. Korea,
Guatemala, Navahos, Congo pygmies, and bushmen. In 1990, a
large US-UK-Chinese study reported taller Chinese had higher
levels of coronary heart disease (CHD).9 It should be noted
that increases in height have correlated with large
increases in diabetes, CHD, and cancer in India, China,
Japan, and S. Korea. Interestingly men in Crete have
increased in height by 6 cm along with a substantial
increase in CVD, but crude weight and BMI did not increase.
Our recently published paper is consistent with these
findings.9 The paper, based on millions of deaths, reports
on CVD in California, Western Europe, and Asia.
Interestingly, we found that the rate of increase in CHD
between shorter and taller women was similar to the increase
between shorter and taller men. The paper appeared this
April in the Medical Science Monitor8 and can be downloaded
A number of scientists have described the laws of scaling
for animals of different sizes. These have included Went,
D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson, McMahon and Bonner, Astrand and
Rodahl, and Stephen Jay Gould.5 These scientists have
described the allometric changes related to increases in
linear dimensions vs exponential increases in surface,
volume, and weight.The physical laws described by these
scientists are poorly understood, but they are well proven
when animals of the same species and proportions are
compared. Applying scaling laws to humans, we found that
shorter humans of the same proportions have the following
• Faster reaction times
• Greater ability to accelerate their bodies and limbs
• Stronger on a pound-for-pound basis
• Lower stress on back and joints
• Greater agility
• Lower risk of breaking bones on falling
• Greater endurance
• Lower risk of heat stroke
• Lower water and food needs
Francis Galton noted many years ago that taller, bigger men
are at substantially increased risk of being killed in
battle due to being larger targets.5 A more recent study
reported that basketball players who fought in WW II had
substantially higher mortality during combat. We have
described the physical advantages of smaller body size in
Medical Hypotheses,3 The Journal of the Washington Academy
of Sciences4, and The Truth About Your Height.5
In summary, based on 30 years of research, we have found
that promotion of taller height is not desirable in terms of
health, longevity, physical agility, resource needs, and the
environment. In addition, the focus on higher birthweight,
rapid growth, attainment of our maximum genetic potential
for height, and widespread consumption of high calorie, fat
and protein foods may be primary factors in the obesity
Thomas T. Samaras, Director and Sr.
Researcher, Reventropy Associates, San Diego, Ca.
Lowell H. Storms, Professor Emeritus,
School of Medicine, University of California,
San Diego, Ca.
Competing interests: None declared.
1 Elrick H, Samaras TT, Demas A, Missing links in the
obesity epidemic. Nutr Res 2002; 22: 1101-1123.
2 Samaras TT, Elrick H, Storms LH. Birthweight, rapid
growth, cancer, and longevity: a review. J Natl Med Assoc
2003; 95: 1170-1183.
3 Samaras TT, Storms LH. Secular growth and its harmful
ramifications. Med Hyp 2002; 58: 93-112.
4 Samaras TT. How body height and weight affect our
performance, longevity, and survival. J Wash Acad Sci
1996; 84: 131-156.
5 Samaras. The Truth About Your Height. Exploring the Myths
and Realities of Human Size and its Effects on
Performance, Health, Pollution and Survival. Tecolote
Publications, San Diego, 1994. (Available thru Amazon.com)
6 Gunnell D, Okasha M, Smith GD, Oliver E, Sandhu J, Holly
JMP. Height, leg length, and cancer risk: a systematic
review. Epidemiol Rev 2001; 23: 313-342.
7 Zaretsky MD. Communication between identical twins: health
behavior and social factors are associated with longevity
that is greater among identical than fraternal U.S. World
War II veteran twins. J Geront: Med Sci 2003; 58A:
8 Samaras TT, Elrick H, Storms LH. Is height related to
longevity? Minireview, Life Sci 2003; 72:1781-1802.
9 Samaras TT, Elrick H, Storms LH. Is short height really
Competing interests: No competing interests
Besides other factors, obesity is closely associated with sexual
dysfunctions and overall sexual performance. Like good shelter, fresh
foods, and nice clothes, proper sexual behavior and related satisfaction
is associated with better quality of life. Obese men are reported to have
poor sexual performance and hence both sexual partners suffer from
associated anxieties, depressive moods, and multiple frustrations in life
often leading to interpersonal conflicts and family dysfunctions. Female
counterparts may look to other ways of satisfying their sexual needs,
which may vary across cultures.
Well, this report would be encouraging to those obese men with
compromised sexual performance to reduce their weights in order to have
sexual pleasure and in turn satisfying the sexual needs of their partners.
To achieve this, obese gentlemen are advised to do daily regular exercise,
eat food compatible with your energy needs, and reduce weight.
Notably, exercise also improves moods and increases the tolerance to
adapt to stresses through manipulating higher CNS working mechanisms in
particular impacting hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis.
Finally, sex is an important component of better quality of life, to
enjoy it keep healthy and overall sound health doesn't go hand in hand
Scott Gottlieb. Obese men can regain sexual function by losing weight
and exercising. BMJ 2004; 328: 1517-0.
Competing interests: No competing interests