Shorter People May Be at a Greater Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

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Oct 1, 2019

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In addition to being more vulnerable to heart diseases, shorter people are also at a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to a new study published in the journal Diabetologia.

Researchers said it could be because shorter people have higher amounts of fat in the liver, which is known to increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Additionally, other factors such as high blood pressure and hypertension, which various studies have established are more common in shorter people as compared to taller ones, may also increase the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes.

Overall, researchers found that in people with a normal weight (what they should’ve weighed based on their height), the risk of developing type 2 diabetes decreases by 86% with every addition of 10 cm in height for men, and by 67% with every addition of 10 cm in height for women.

For people who are obese (overweight compared to their height), an addition of every 10 cm in height lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes by 36% for men and by 30% for women.

From a pool of about 27,000 people, researchers randomly picked 2,500 men and women in Germany. Their age, lifestyle, education and waist circumference were taken into account and the study’s authors noticed that people with greater height were at a lower risk of diabetes.

When it came to height, the authors measured participants’ height when they sat as well as measured the length of their legs. To reach the above conclusion, researchers took into account the heights of men who were under 5’6″ and compared them to those taller than 5’11” and the heights of women who were under 5’2″ and compared them with those taller than 5’6″.


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Not only the full height but having longer legs was also associated with a lower risk of diabetes. But it was different for men and women. For men, while longer leg length was enough to lower the risk of diabetes, for women, an increase in both leg length and sitting height meant a decrease in the risk of type 2 diabetes.

The study’s authors suggest that the findings of the study could mean that people’s height can be an alerting factor to assess for either diabetes or cardiovascular diseases. They add that since height is largely unmodifiable during adulthood, the findings could mean that there could be interventions to reduce liver fat among shorter people as an alternative approach to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.

However, Gail Melkus, called this study “a piece of the pie,” in a CNN report. Melkus is the associate dean for research in New York University’s Rory Meyers College of Nursing and a diabetes researcher, who wasn’t a part of the current 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,” Melkus told CNN. She said that not only does the current finding need more research for the link between height and diabetes risk to be clearer, but she says it does make one think of a question: “Should short stature be another risk factor for screening for type 2 diabetes, along with family history or obesity?” CNN reports.

Assuring shorter people not to worry and not to think that their height may necessarily contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes, she also said that, “It’s not just one risk factor that we need to consider when screening people for any health condition.”

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Written By Anubhuti Matta

Anubhuti Matta is an associate editor with The Swaddle. When not at work, she’s busy pursuing kathak, reading books on and by women in the Middle East or making dresses out of Indian prints.

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