According to a study published in the journal Diabetologia, shorter people are at greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes. 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, and also looked at a variety of data from participants, including body weight, total body height, sitting height, waist circumference and blood pressure. The heights ranged from under 5’6″ (169.7 cm) to above 5’11” (180.3 cm) for men and under 5’2″ (157.8 cm) to above 5’6″ (168.1 cm) for women.
It found that, for both men and women the risk of diabetes was lower by more than 30 per cent for each three inch (10 cm) difference in height.
The German study found that each additional 10 centimeters (about 4 inches) of height was linked to a 41 per cent lower risk of type 2 diabetes in men and a 33 per cent lower risk in women.
“We found that larger body height was related to lower diabetes risk,” said study author Matthias Schulze, a professor at the University of Potsdam and department head at the German Institute of Human Nutrition Potsdam-Rehbruecke in Nuthetal.
But how does your height make a difference? According to the researchers, it could be that shorter people may gain liver fat more easily, and be more prone to heart disease and metabolic risk factors such as higher blood pressure, cholesterol and inflammation. The study also argues that shorter people should be monitored for diabetes and risk factors related to cardiovascular disease.
However, the study didn’t prove a definitive cause-and-effect link, only an association, the researchers were quick to note. Schulze said height alone probably doesn’t cause the “insulin resistance” that then can lead to type 2 diabetes. Instead, he believes, other factors involved in growth may play a role in insulin resistance and adult height.
And while monitoring shorter people for diabetes and its risk factors might be helpful, it’s not clear that there’s a specific height where additional screening should begin, Schulze said.
“As risk continuously increases with shorter height, there isn’t a cutoff height available,” he noted.