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Can her teen daughter grow any taller?

Mum worries 13-year-old will remain at current height, wonders if calcium will help

Reader Mrs Choo wrote in, worried about her daughter's height, and wanted to know her daughter's chances of growing taller in the next few years and whether there would be another growth spurt in that time.

Now 13, her daughter is 1.58m tall and hopes to grow taller, to at least 1.6m. Mrs Choo said: "She seems to have remained at the same height for the past two years."

Mrs Choo is 1.64m and her husband is 1.73m. Her 17-year-old son is 1.78m.

She asked: "What can my daughter do to increase her chances of growing a few more centimetres before she reaches her adult height, if she hasn't already?"

Being lactose-intolerant, her daughter does not drink milk regularly. Mrs Choo asked: "Are there any alternatives to drinking milk for a healthy calcium intake? I understand there is an optimal age range for milk intake to build strong bones for both young men and women. Does calcium also help one grow taller?"

Mind&Body editor Ng Wan Ching has an answer.

There are many factors that determine a person's final adult height.

Based on the parents' heights, the daughter's predicted height should be about 162cm, said consultant endocrinologist Peter Eng at Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre.

However, this is just an estimation of her genetic potential height. There are many other, unknown factors that will determine her final adult height.

Her parents may want to take her to consult a paediatrician or paediatric endocrinologist to exclude any hormone imbalance or other medical conditions that might affect her growth, said Dr Eng.

Whether she will grow taller in the next few years also depends on when she entered puberty. If she has started her menses, she is at the late stage of puberty and may not grow much more, if at all, said Dr Eng.

She should follow a healthy, balanced diet to ensure adequate nutrition. Other than that, there is not much else she can do to increase her height, said Dr Eng.

Growth hormone is given to children who are short because of a growth hormone deficiency, and occasionally to very short children even if they do not have a deficiency, he said. As the daughter's height is 1.58m, she is probably unlikely to have a deficiency, he noted.

Also, her age would not make her a good candidate for growth hormone treatment, which is usually started before puberty.

Calcium-rich foods include tofu, certain leafy vegetables, ikan bilis and calcium-fortified juice. Calcium will help build stronger bones but not increase height, said Dr Eng.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 25, 2016, with the headline 'Can her teen daughter grow any taller?'. Print Edition | Subscribe