Shorter people are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes,
according to a study published in the journal Diabetologia.
Tall people might be at greater risk of
developing cancer, but short people have their own risks, according
to the research.
Researchers looked at more than 2,500 middle-aged men and women
in Germany from a pool of about 26,000 people. After adjusting for
age, lifestyle, education and waist circumference, researchers
found that greater height was associated with a lower risk for
The team evaluated height by taking into account both sitting
height and leg length. The heights ranged from under 169.7cm (5'6")
to above 180.3cm (5'11") for men and under 157.8cm (5'2") to above
168.1cm (5'6") for women.
It found that, for both men and women, the risk of diabetes was
lower by more than 30 per cent for each 10cm difference in
More height = lower liver fat
Part of the association between greater height and a lower risk
for diabetes may come from the associations between greater height
and lower liver fat content and other diabetic risk factors, like
blood lipids, said Matthias Schulze, one of the researchers.
The study also argues that shorter people should be monitored
for diabetes and risk factors related to cardiovascular disease.
Because liver fat contributes so much to the higher risk in shorter
individuals, reducing liver fat may provide a way to reduce the
risk of diabetes.
Gail Melkus, associate dean for research in NYU's Rory Meyers
College of Nursing and a diabetes researcher, called the study "a
piece of the pie" in researching diabetes. Professor Melkus is
unaffiliated with the study.
"I think that the conclusions have to be cautiously interpreted
because it's a secondary data analysis, meaning they didn't get a
group of people and follow them going forward," she said.
Should height be a risk factor?
She said the study poses an interesting question: Should short
stature be another risk factor for screening for type 2 diabetes,
along with family history or obesity? More research needs to be
done to determine the answer.
Still, she said short people shouldn't automatically think
they're destined for diabetes, nor should tall people think they're
safe and sound, especially when other risk factors apply to
"It's not just one risk factor that we need to consider when
screening people for any health condition," she said.