In a new study, researchers found being short is linked to a higher risk of type 2 diabetes.
In contrast, tall stature is linked to lower risk, with each 10cm difference in height linked to a 41% decreased risk of diabetes in men and a 33% decreased risk in women.
The researchers say the increased risk in shorter people may be due to higher liver fat content and more cardiometabolic risk factors.
The research was conducted by a team from the German Institute of Human Nutrition Potsdam-Rehbruecke and other institutes.
Short stature has been linked to a higher risk of diabetes in several studies, suggesting that height could be used to predict the risk for the condition.
It has been reported that insulin sensitivity and beta-cell function are better in taller people.
Short stature is related to higher heart disease risk, a risk that might in part be mediated by cardio-metabolic risk factors relevant to type 2 diabetes—for example blood pressure, blood fats and inflammation.
In the study, the team used data obtained in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) – Potsdam.
That project included 16, 644 women aged between 35 and 65 years and 10,904 men aged between 40 and 65 years.
For this study, data from 2,500 participants (approx. 10%) were analyzed.
The team found that the risk of future type 2 diabetes was lower by 41% for men and 33% for women for each 10cm larger height.
The link of height with diabetes risk appeared to be stronger among normal-weight people, with an 86% lower risk per 10cm larger height in men, and 67% lower risk per 10cm larger height in women.
In overweight/obese people, each 10cm larger height was associated with diabetes risk being 36% lower for men and 30% lower for women.
The team says 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.
The team also found liver fat, blood sugar, hormone, and blood fats influenced the links.
They say that a large proportion of the reduced risk attributable to increased height is related to taller people having lower liver fat and a ‘healthier’ cardiometabolic profile.
They suggest 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.
One author of the study is Dr. Clemens Wittenbeche.
The study is published in Diabetologia (the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes).
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