Does Height Affect Diabetes Risk?

A unique study out of Germany explores how your height may influence certain health risks. It has been long observed that shorter people seem to have a higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes while taller people tend to be at a higher risk for cancer.  Specifically, the study identified that men with short legs, in particular, appear to have higher liver fat content, on average.  This higher liver fat percentage is commonly associated with a higher risk for diabetes.  

Researchers have actually been trying to discern the causative link behind these trends, so this new study has attempted to identify how particular components of height could be associated with certain diseases.  The new study has also attempted to identify whether any biomarkers exist that could explain these correlations.  To get a better idea about these variables, the researchers analyzed data taken from 2,000 participants of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC).  

Adjusting for certain confounding factors, the surprising research revealed that every 10 centimeters of height somehow conferred a 41 percent lower risk of diabetes for men and 33 percent lower risk for women.  This association appeared to be stronger among adults with normal weight, which suggests that obesity might counteract any lower diabetes risk among taller people. 

What is, perhaps, most interesting, is that researchers said that leg length appears to be related as well.  According to the study authors, longer legs—in men—could be linked with lower risk for diabetes; although, this link was not found among women in the study.  

In a statement, the study researchers concluded “We found an inverse association between height and risk of type 2 diabetes among men and women, which was largely related to leg length among men.  Part of this inverse association may be driven by the associations of greater height with lower liver fat content and a more favorable profile of cardiometabolic risk factors, specifically blood fats, adiponectin and C-reactive protein.” 

While the study appears to provide conclusive evidence of this strange link, the association is still only speculated as a cause for this is still not known.  To clarify this, the researchers have noted that other research has also made similar conclusions about the relationship between height and lower liver fat (and, thus, disease).  

For now, the research from this study has been published in the journal Diabetologia.