Shorter people more likely to develop type 2

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 diabetes.

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 height.

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 them.

“It’s not just one risk factor that we need to consider when screening people for any health condition,” she said.

Join our community of over 33,000 people living with diabetes