Short-legged men have an increased risk of heart disease and a condition that leads to diabetes, insulin resistance syndrome, shows research in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
The study focused on 2512 men aged between 45 and 59, who were part of the Caerphilly Study in Wales. Detailed measurements of standing and sitting height and their blood profile were taken. They were monitored for 15 years to gauge their risks of developing heart disease.
Insulin resistance, in which the body's normal response to glucose transport is impaired, and which eventually leads to diabetes, was significantly more common in men with shorter legs, even if their overall height was not short. Unfavourable blood fat (lipid) profiles and higher levels of the blood clotting factor fibrinogen, both of which increase the risk of heart disease, were also strongly associated with shorter legs.
During the monitoring period, more coronary "events" occurred among men with the shortest legs than among those with the longest.
Height has been linked to heart disease before, say the authors, but these findings suggest that the important component for height, in terms of disease risk, is leg length, itself an indicator of nutritional and environmental circumstances during childhood.
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[Leg length, insulin resistance, and coronary heart disease risk: The Caerphilly Study 2001; 55: 867-72]
Source: BMJ Specialty Journals