Shorter people at higher risk of diabetes, study finds

Shorter people are at a higher risk of type 2 diabetes than taller people, according to a new study.

Researchers found that the risk of future type 2 diabetes was 41% lower for men and 33% lower for women, for each 10cm taller in height they were.

Its authors, who include Dr Clemens Wittenbecher and Professor Matthias Schulze of the German Institute of Human Nutrition Potsdam-Rehbruecke, said the study supported height being a “useful predictive marker” for diabetes risk.

They added: “We found an inverse association between height and risk of type 2 diabetes among men and women, which was largely related to leg length among men.

“Part of this inverse association may be driven by the associations of greater height with lower liver fat content and a more favourable profile of cardiometabolic risk factors, specifically blood fats, adiponectin and C-reactive protein.”

The research, published in Diabetologia, the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes, on Monday, used data of 2,500 people obtained from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study of more than 27,000 participants.

It also found that the association of height with diabetes risk appeared to be stronger among people with a normal weight, with an 86% lower risk for men per 10cm greater height, and 67% lower risk for women per 10cm taller in height.

In overweight or obese people each additional 10cm was associated with a 36% lower diabetes risk for men and 30% lower risk for women.

They added: “This may indicate that a higher diabetes risk with larger waist circumference counteracts beneficial effects related to height, irrespective of whether larger waist circumference is due to growth or due to consuming too many calories.”

Longer leg length was also associated with a lower risk of diabetes, researchers said.

The authors also said that the increased risk in shorter individuals may be due to higher liver fat content and a “less favourable profile of cardiometabolic risk factors”.

They added: “Our findings suggest that short people might present with higher cardiometabolic risk factor levels and have higher diabetes risk compared with tall people.”

“Our study also suggests that early interventions to reduce height-related metabolic risk throughout life likely need to focus on determinants of growth in sensitive periods during pregnancy, early childhood, puberty and early adulthood, and should take potential sex-differences into account.”

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