New study suggests shorter people may be more prone to diabetes

  • A recent study published in the journal Diabetologia found that people who were taller were less likely to have diabetes

  • Type 2 diabetes is a disorder in which the body produces inadequate amounts of insulin, or is unable to use insulin to process blood sugar properly

  • Data show that over 70 million people in India are living with diabetes

Research shows that beauty is important in evolution: through the ages, different species have selected specimens that they thought were the most beautiful.

Among humans, height, especially long legs, has long been considered a metric of beauty. Now, research shows it might have a link to good health in ways we hadn’t considered before.

 New study suggests shorter people may be more prone to diabetes

Representational images. PTI

A recent study published in the journal Diabetologia found that people who were taller were less likely to have diabetes.

The research

From 1995-98, a group of 27,500 people aged 35-65 participated in a study on the relationship between diet, lifestyle behaviours, and the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases. For the current study, researchers at the German Institute of Human Nutrition Potsdam-Rehbruecke randomly shortlisted 2,500 participants from the original 27,500.

Next, the researchers followed the participants’ health for seven years. By the end, they found, about 800 participants had developed type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is a disorder in which the body produces inadequate amounts of insulin, or is unable to use insulin to process blood sugar properly.

While the current research didn’t establish causality, it did point to something interesting. Say, you were to draw a graph with the incidence of type 2 diabetes among these participants on the y-axis and their height on the x-axis. You’d see that for every extra four inches, people’s risk for getting type 2 diabetes seemed to decrease dramatically - by 41% in men and by 33% in women.

Even in people of the same height, the researchers found, those with longer legs (as compared to a longer torso) were at lower risk of type 2 diabetes. This factor was especially noticed in men.

The researchers also studied factors like age, physical activity levels, waist circumference, smoking and alcohol consumption, as they can also increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Previous studies have associated shorter height with a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases and inflammation.

What’s the link

How height affects one’s risk of getting diabetes is still unclear, but researchers say that it may be because shorter people tend to accumulate fat more easily than taller people.

To be sure, the researchers pointed out that factors like malnutrition and unhealthy eating can affect insulin-resistance and height too. Another caveat: the researchers didn’t specify a height at which the risk of diabetes becomes considerable.

What’s the significance of this study to us, then?

First, to increase vigilance. Knowing that there could be a correlation between height and the risk for diabetes may encourage shorter people to go for earlier or more frequent check-ups. In several diseases like diabetes and hypertension, early detection is especially important. This is because diabetes affects every organ in the body - the sooner it is detected and managed with medicines, the less harm it can do to our eyes, heart, kidneys and other organs.

According to a “100-year height study” by the Imperial College London, the average urban Indian male is under 5 foot, 5 inches tall. The urban Indian woman is 5 feet tall.

Second, India has one of the highest incidences of diabetes in the world. Data show that over 70 million people in India are living with this disease.

A little extra caution and a significantly better lifestyle with proper diet and exercise could help us get healthier, even as scientists conduct more studies to see if this height-diabetes link is in fact solid.

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health. To know more on this topic, please read Diabetes: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Common Myths About the Disease.

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Updated Date: Sep 17, 2019 12:20:30 IST