Nearly 700 genetic variations that determine human height were pinpointed by scientists, they said Sunday. This was more than triple the haul in research to aid the fight against stature-related diseases.
An international team compared the DNA of more than 250,000 people, looking for genetic variations that could explain differences in height.
They found 697 single changes in the genetic code, located in 424 regions, the experts reported in the journal Nature Genetics.
This represents about 20 percent of all genetic variants which are believed to play a part in determining height, they said. The previous tally was 12.5 percent. The remaining variants still have to be discovered.
"This goes a long way towards fulfilling a scientific curiosity that could have real impact in the treatment of diseases that can be influenced by height," said Tim Frayling, a professor at the University of Exeter in southwestern England.
These included osteoporosis, cancer or heart disease.
"It is also a step forward towards a test that may reassure parents worried that their child is not growing as well as they'd hoped -- most of these children have simply inherited a big batch of 'short genes'."
Previous research had shown that inheritance accounts for more than 80 percent of the factors that determine height, the rest being nutrition and other "environmental" influences, the team pointed out.
Scientific links have in the past been drawn between tallness and a greater risk of breast or prostate cancer and a smaller risk of cardiovascular disease.
Conversely, shorter people tend to have longer lives, suggests the data. The reasons for this are unclear.