Being tall can affect your health in a slew of different ways – both positive and negative. According to a new study, height has an important impact on the mortality from certain common diseases, irrespective of body fat mass and other modulating factors.
The study, by Harvard School of Public Health and Medical School and the German Center for Diabetes Research, shows that the taller a person is the lower their risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, but their risk of cancer increases.
Matthias Schulze of the German Institute of Human Nutrition in Potsdam (DIfE) said that epidemiological data show that per 6.5 cm in height the risk of cardiovascular mortality decreases by six percent, but cancer mortality, by contrast, increases by four percent.
The authors suspect that the increase in body height is a marker of overnutrition of high-calorie food rich in animal protein during different stages of growth. Thus, already in utero, lifelong programming might take place that until now has mainly been established for the insulin-like growth factor 1 and 2 and the IGF-1/2 system.
Among other consequences, activation of this system causes the body to become more sensitive to insulin action, thus positively influencing the lipid metabolism.
Accordingly, the new data show that tall people are more sensitive to insulin and have lower fat content in the liver, which may explain their lower risk for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, Norbert Stefan added.
The scientists advocate considering the factor growth and adult height more than hitherto in the prevention of the above-mentioned major diseases. In particular, physicians should be made more aware of the fact that tall people – although less often affected by cardiovascular disease or type 2 diabetes – have an increased risk of cancer. Hitherto, the importance of diet has been underestimated, especially during pregnancy and in children and adolescents.
The study is published in Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology.