Tall people have a lower risk for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, but a higher risk of cancer in comparison to short people, a new study has claimed.
The findings shows that height has an important impact on the mortality from certain common diseases, irrespective of body fat mass and other modulating factors, researchers said.
Previous studies have shown that tall people, in comparison to short people, have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes but have a higher cancer risk.
“Epidemiological data show that per 6.5 centimetres in height the risk of cardiovascular mortality decreases by six per cent, but cancer mortality, by contrast, increases by four per cent,” said Matthias Schulze from the German Institute of Human Nutrition.
Researchers feel 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 (IGF) 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, our 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,” said Norbert Stefan from the German Centre for Diabetes Research.
These findings fit in with published data that suggest that tall people have relative protection against disorders of the lipid metabolism.
However, this activation of the IGF-1/2 system and other signalling pathways may be related to an increased risk of certain cancers, especially breast cancer, colon cancer, and melanoma because cell growth is permanently activated, researchers said.
The result is an inverse association with the risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, but a positive association with the risk of cancer.
Researchers advocate considering the factor growth and adult height more than hitherto in the prevention of 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, they said. The findings were published in the journal The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology.