Height Impacts Risk of Cancer, Cardiovascular Disease

Diabetes and other conditions are also influenced by a person’s height.

New research has found that a person’s height can be a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and cancer.

With the recent steady increase in height among generations, Dutch men are found to be 20 cm taller than those 150 years ago. The Netherlands is reported to have the highest increase in height in the past few decades.

This information piqued the interest of a multi-national team of researchers, who set out to analyze both the medical effects and causes of this spike in height.

The study authors believe that the increase in height can be attributed to over-nutrition of high calorie foods that are rich in animal proteins during a person’s growth stages.

This means that lifelong programming can take place while a baby is still in the womb, and that diet can have an impact during pregnancy. Before it was mainly established for the insulin-like growth factor 1 and 2 and the IGF-1/2 system.

When the system becomes activated, the body becomes more sensitive to insulin, and as a result, it positively influences the lipid metabolism. This correlates with recently published data suggesting those who are tall have more of a relative protection against disorders of 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 researcher Norbert Stefan.

The results of the study showed that taller people are at a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease and type-2 diabetes than those who are shorter. However, because of the activation of the IGF-1/2 system and other signaling pathways, it can be associated with a higher risk in developing certain cancers, such as colon cancer, breast cancer, and melanoma.

Researchers believe this is the case because the cell growth is permanently activated.

The results indicate height can influence mortality from certain common diseases, regardless of body fat mass and other factors, as taller people have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, but a greater risk for cancer.

"Epidemiological data show that per 6.5 cm in height the risk of cardiovascular mortality decreases by six percent, but cancer mortality, by contrast, increases by four percent," said Matthias Schulze of the German Institute of Human Nutrition in Potsdam.