A country with a taller population may have to worry less about obesity as researchers have found that the genes that result in greater height correlate strongly with genes that reduce body mass index (BMI).
"The research suggests that tall nations are genetically more likely to be slim," said Peter Visscher, professor at the University of Queensland in Australia.
The study paves the way to determine whether genetics also plays a role in creating national differences in disorders such as dementia, diabetes and heart disease.
The researchers looked at height and BMI differences in 9,416 people from 14 European countries and used data from genome-wide association studies.
The findings could explain why people from northern European countries tended on average to be taller and slimmer than other Europeans, Matthew Robinson from University of Queensland pointed out.
"Countries' populations differ in many ways, from the height of their people to the prevalence of certain diseases," he said.
On average, 24 per cent of the genetic variation in height and eight per cent of the genetic variation in BMI could be explained by regional differences, Robinson noted.
The study was published in the journal Nature Genetics