Seoul, July 9: They both are not known to be tall enough but now, one race is eclipsing another in the race to attain the heights and it is the Koreans who are winning the game at the moment.
According to a Korean Times report, teens of Korea were shorter than their Japanese counterparts in the 1960s but from the 1990s onwards, the trend has changed and now the Koreans are growing taller than the islanders.
Speaking about the phenomenon, the Korea Times report cited the viewpoints of Hiroshi Mori, professor emeritus at Japan's Sensu University, who gave the matter a serious thought after reading about it in a newspaper. He felt the implications of this interesting phenomenon are "eye-opening", the Korean Times report said.
He said the Koreans trailed the Japanese in height in the 1960s and then they two were almost same in the 1970s and 1980s and from the 1990s onwards, the Japanese started falling behind.
Mori, a food economist, learned that while Korean teens' average height grew till the mid-2000s, that of the Japanese stopped growing from the 1990s, the report added.
Koreans are in fact the tallest nationalities in East Asia with their males' average height measuring three centimetres more than that of their Japanese counterparts. In case of the females, the average height of Koreans is 2.5 centimetres more than the Japanese, the Korean Times added.
Ninety-year-old Mori was quite surprised by the revelations since Japanese diet had more meat and milk - the protein sources that are closely associated with height.
Explaining the Japanese people's lagging behind, molecular biologist Chao-Qiang Lai at Tufts University, US, said while genetic factors determined about 60-80 per cent difference between heights, 20-40 per cent is decided by environmental factors, like nutrition, the report said.
Mori said an interesting pattern in food consumption seen in the two East Asian countries could explain it more. He said the consumption of fruits and vegetables in Japan has decreased while it has multiplied in South Korea.
Japan's per capita consumption of vegetables remained at 120 kilograms per year, a figure static since World War II, while that in Korea has gone up significantly (in 2000, its average vegetable consumption in 2000 was 235.7 kilograms, compared to 82.3 kgs in 1965), the report said.
Mori said it might not be the key determinant of children's health but suspected that low consumption of fruits and vegetables might have left a negative impact on the Japanese youngsters' bone mineral accumulation - a reason which is also believed to make the North Koreans shorter in height compared to their southern counterparts, the report said.