Study: Short People are at Higher Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

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By : dLife Editors

Your height may be an indicator of your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, according to a new study from the German Institute of Human Nutrition Potsdam-Rehbruecke in Germany.

The study found that being tall is associated with a lower risk, with each 10cm difference in height associated with a 41% decreased risk of diabetes in men and a 33% decreased risk in women.

Researchers studied 2,662 middle-aged men and women from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) – Potsdam; a study that included 27,548 participants.

The team looked at a variety of data from participants, including body weight, total body height, and sitting height, waist circumference and blood pressure.

The study found that the risk of future Type 2 diabetes was lower by 41% for men and 33% for women for each 10cm larger height, when adjusted for age, potential lifestyle confounders, education, and waist circumference.

The authors find the increased risk in shorter individuals may be due to higher liver fat content and a less favorable profile of cardiometabolic risk factors.

“Our findings suggest that short people might present with higher cardiometabolic risk factor levels and have higher diabetes risk compared with tall people,” said Dr. Clemens Wittenbecher and Professor Matthias Schulze in a statement.

“These observations corroborate that height is a useful predictive marker for diabetes risk and suggest that monitoring of cardiometabolic risk factors may be more frequently indicated among shorter persons, independent of their body size and composition,” the authors add.

Specifically, they say liver fat contributes to the higher risk among shorter individuals and, because height appears to be largely unmodifiable during adulthood, interventions to reduce liver fat may provide alternative approaches to reduce the risk associated with shorter height.

Short stature has been linked to a higher risk of diabetes in several studies, suggesting that height could be used to predict the risk for the condition.

It has also been reported that insulin sensitivity and beta-cell function are better in taller people.

The association of height with diabetes risk appeared to be stronger among normal-weight individuals, with an 86% lower risk per 10cm larger height in men, and 67% lower risk per 10cm larger height in women.

In overweight/obese individuals, each 10cm larger height was associated with diabetes risk being 36% lower for men and 30% lower for women.

“This may indicate that a higher diabetes risk with larger waist circumference counteracts beneficial effects related to height, irrespective of whether larger waist circumference is due to growth or due to consuming too many calories,” Wittenbecher and Schulze note.

They also found a larger leg length was associated with a lower risk of diabetes.

A slight sex difference was noted, however, for men — a larger sitting height at the cost of leg length related to increased risk, whilst amongst women both leg length and sitting height contributed to lower risk.

The authors suggest that, among boys, growth before puberty, which relates more strongly to leg length, will have a more favorable impact on later diabetes risk than growth during puberty (assuming that truncal bones are the last to stop growing).

For girls both growth periods seem to be important.

The authors also calculated to what extent the inverse associations of height and height components with Type 2 diabetes risk are explainable by liver fat (measured as Fatty Liver index) and other cardiometabolic risk factors.

When the results were adjusted for liver fat content, the men’s reduced risk of diabetes per 10cm larger height was 34% (compared with 40% in the overall results), and the women’s reduced risk was just 13% compared with 33% in the overall results.

“Our study also suggests that early interventions reduce height-related metabolic risk throughout life likely need to focus on determinants of growth in sensitive periods during pregnancy, early childhood, puberty, and early adulthood, and should take potential sex differences into account,” indicate Wittenbecher and Schulze.

As for the inverse association between height and risk of Type 2 diabetes among men and women, which was largely related to leg length among men, the authors conclude part of this inverse association may be driven by the associations of greater height with lower liver fat content and a more favorable profile of cardiometabolic risk factors, specifically blood fats, adiponectin, and C-reactive protein.

The study has been published in Diabetologia.


  1. Diabetologia. (2019, September 9). Study shows shorter people are at higher risk of type 2 diabetes. EurekAlert! Retrieved September 10, 2019, from