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Tall People Have Lower Diabetes & Heart Disease Risks But Higher Cancer Risk

Height has been linked with several diseases in a new study. Tall people appear to have a lower risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes but a higher cancer risk. The paper is published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.


It is surprising that in spite of height being determined by genes, it has been gradually increasing among adults and children across the globe. Previous studies have shown that children would ultimately grow taller in their adult years than their parents; the difference has been described as being significant. The greatest height increase has been found in Netherlands: the men are 20 cm taller there than those who lived one and a half decades ago. What has caused this increase? The consumption of milk and dairy products might be a factor.

When a team of researchers set out to investigate the causes and effects of the increase in height, they found that as the height increase in the country is the highest in the world, its per capita consumption of milk is also the greatest.

The authors think that the overconsumption of animal protein throughout the various stages of growth might account for the body height increase. This might cause lifelong programming in the womb itself activating insulin-like growth factors and the IGF-1/2 system. Another consequence of this system activation seems to be a lower risk for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Apparently, the in utero programming that happens makes the body become more sensitive to the action of hormone insulin such that lipid metabolism is positively influenced. The data show that tall people have greater insulin sensitivity and lower fat content in the liver which might explain why they have a lower risk for the two diseases; the risk of cardiovascular mortality decreases by 6% per 6.5 cm in height. Other studies show that tall people are more protected from disorders entailing lipid metabolism.

On the other hand, the activation of the IGF-1/2 system might be associated with a greater risk of developing certain forms of cancer like colon cancer; this would be because cell growth is permanently activated. The results show that per 6.5 cm in height, the cancer mortality risk increases by 4%.

It is to be noted that the findings show the impact of height on the mortality relating to the above-mentioned diseases regardless of body fat mass.

The authors conclude that height should be taken into account in the prevention of the diseases.


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