Study: Americans' Heads Getting Bigger and Changing Shape

H. Scott English

Forensic anthropologists at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville found that white Americans' heads are starting to change shape in addition to getting bigger and bigger in size during the 20th century. The researchers studied more than 1,500 skulls that were dated beginning in the 1800's and going through the 1980's. They noticed that the skulls became taller, larger and narrower which gave the impression that faces also got longer.

Dr. Richard Jantz told The Huffington Post,

"The surprising thing is the skull size increase has not been documented in modern Americans. We might have suspected that that was happening but this documents it... The shape of the skull has also changed rather dramatically. In fact, shape change has been more dramatic than size change."

Now that the research team has identified the growth they are now trying to figure out why it happened.

Dr. Lee Meadows-Jantz of the University of Tennessee's Forensic Anthropology Center issued a statement which said,

"The varieties of changes that have swept American life make determining an exact cause an endlessly complicated proposition. It likely results from modified growth patterns because of better nutrition, lower infant and maternal mortality, less physical work, and a breakdown of former ethnic barriers to marriage. Which of these is paramount we do not know."

The researchers also said obesity could be playing a role in the skull size increase.

Dr. Richard Jantz told The Huffington Post,

"Increased calories, nutritional adequacy and decreased activity have probably been important factors. We know that changes how the body works."