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condition in which an animal or plant is far greater than normal in size. Plants are often deliberately bred to increase their size. However, among animals, gigantism is usually the result of hereditary and glandular disturbance. Among humans, gigantism is produced by an oversecretion of growth hormones by the acidophilic cells in the anterior lobe of the pituitary, causing excessive growth of all the tissues of the body. The metabolic rate is usually at least 20% above normal, which could be caused by an excess of the growth hormone alone, or oversecretion of the thyroid hormone in addition. Usually hyperglycemia (overactivity of the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas) is present. This condition eventually leads to degeneration of the islet cells, causing diabetes. Because of these metabolic abnormalities, the life expectancy of a giant is considerably less than normal. The treatment for gigantism is usually irradiation of the pituitary. The excessive height of the pituitary giant, which is defined at various levels above 7 ft (213 cm), is caused by excessive growth of the long bones. However, if the pituitary becomes overactive after growth is complete (marked by closure of the epiphyses of the long bones), the condition known as acromegalyacromegaly
, adult endocrine disorder resulting from hypersecretion of growth hormone produced by the pituitary gland. Since the bones cannot increase in length after full growth is attained, there is a disproportionate thickening of bones, predominantly in the skull and small
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 results. Giantsgiant,
in mythology, manlike being of great size and strength. The giant has been the symbol for the expression of certain recurring beliefs in the mythologies of all races.
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 appear in the legends and folklore of many cultures.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



excessive growth in humans. A height exceeding 190 cm may acquire a pathological character. Giants over 200 cm tall are rarely encountered; the tallest human described in the literature was 320 cm tall. Gigantism is observed more often in males, is usually manifested at nine-ten years of age or during the period of sexual maturation, and continues during the physiological growth of the body. The causes of gigantism are not known; it is presumed that it is connected with intensified function of the anterior pituitary gland, which produces the growth hormone. Giants of pathological height experience poor health and rarely live to old age. They are often psychologically infantile, and their sex drive is absent or decreased. Externally, there is elongation of the extremities, especially the lower ones; the head appears unusually small. There exists partial gigantism, which is characterized by the enlargement of part (for example, the feet) or half of the body. Treatment includes X-ray and hormone therapy, sometimes surgery.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


Abnormal largeness of the body due to hypersecretion of growth hormone.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
References in periodicals archive ?
This new study questions some of the current theories about the evolution of climate and life, including the causes for the gigantism of dinosaurs.
This slim, well-illustrated text, details the life of Anna Swan, a Nova Scotia woman who lived in the mid-to-late-eighteen hundreds, and most likely suffered from gigantism. It is a straight-forward biography of Swan's life, geared towards young readers.
Peter Mayhew was born with a condition known as gigantism, which causes excessive growth.
These images show disproportionate overgrowth of fat and bone tissue in the left medial forefoot and midfoot consistent with focal gigantism. The overgrowth is most prominent in the second digit and also involves the first and third digits.
Yet, this apparent paradox may explain the evolutionary advantage of gigantism in trees."
Perhaps it is his sheer gigantism - this was the largest orchestra Opera North have ever fielded in Huddersfield - or perhaps it is the required feats of virtuosity, which were all performed excellently here.
Gary, who suffers from the rare disease of gigantism Acromegaly, is also a well-known sculptor and has had work exhibited nationally.
Jinny died of gigantism at her Jiggins Lane home and the four schoolboys tasked with carrying her coffin remarked how light it seemed.
Hypersecretion leads to gigantism in the young and to acromegaly in the adults, caused usually by a pituitary adenoma.
As von Hoffman indicates, Alinsky worried about "gigantism," whether involving government, big business, or labor unions, casting his lot with "democratic organizations" against massive bureaucracies (151).
The local Xin'an Evening News did not give the cause of death but said in a report that Yao suffered from gigantism, with a tumor on her pituitary gland disrupting her levels of growth hormone.