Growth Antagonists: The Estrogenic Gadfly

Estrogens are the primary female sex hormones. They play a pivotal role in growth, especially during puberty when estrogen modulates growth in coordinance with growth hormones and IGF-1. But estrogen plays an equally important role in ending the growth cycle. It stimulates the closure of the epiphyseal plates which stop the growth of the femurs. One of the reason women stop growing before men do is that they have a lot more estrogen. On average this causes women to be around 7% shorter than men. Interestingly enough they also have a 7% higher life expectancy.

The word estrogen comes from the Greek word for gadfly. Throughout history the gadfly has been a symbol of those seeking to challenge the status quo, sometimes annoying but often rightfully so. The Incredible Shrinking Man seeks to challenge our mindless embrace of tallness as a sign of affluence and growth as the only way forward. In estrogen it finds an interesting and important hormonal and metaphorical partner. Estrogen is vital for healthy growth in puberty as well as curbing that growth within certain parameters. What those parameters are is very much up to our cultural desires. In the meanwhile the further estrogenic feminization of society wouldn’t hurt, especially if women start preferring shorter men.

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