Tall people have a lower risk for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, but a higher risk of cancer. In recent decades the height of children and adults has steadily increased throughout the world. The increasing consumption of high caloric food and especially milk and dairy products seems to be one reason.
An analysis of DZD scientists in collaboration with US colleagues shows that height has an important impact on the mortality from certain common diseases, irrespective of body fat mass and other modulating factors. Per 6.5 cm increase in height the risk of cardiovascular mortality decreases by six percent, but cancer mortality, by contrast, increases by four percent.
The increase in body height might be a marker of overnutrition of high-calorie food rich in animal protein during 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 1 and 2 (IGF-1/2) system. Activation of this system causes the body to become more sensitive to insulin action and influences the lipid metabolism positively. Accordingly, new DZD 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.
However, this activation of the IGF-1/2 system and other signaling pathways may be related to an increased risk of certain cancers, especially breast cancer, colon cancer, and melanoma.
Divergent associations of height with cardiometabolic disease and cancer: epidemiology, pathophysiology, and global implications. Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology 2016 [epub ahead of print]