Do Shorter People Live Longer?

Height and longevity - is there a link between the two? There seems to be - at least in some animal species. Take dogs for an example. Small dogs outlive larger ones on average by several years. Mice that are bred to be genetically big also have shorter lifespans. But what about humans? Do shorter people live longer?

Do Shorter People Live Longer?

The average height of Americans is increasing. According to a report published by the Center for Disease Control, Americans, both male and female, have grown an average of an inch. This may sound like a good thing since society values height - but it may not be from a longevity standpoint.

If you look at countries where people are shorter such as Japan and Greece, the residents usually outlive taller people from parts of Europe and the U.S. Even among Europeans, shorter Europeans who live in the southern portion of the continent have longer lifespans than their taller counterparts living in the north.

Of course, diet and lifestyle may explain some of this link between height and longevity. The Japanese and Greeks eat a healthier diet than most countries where people are taller - and the Japanese are one of the more active cultures in the world. But this may not be the whole story.

According to a study discussed in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization, shorter men have a longevity advantage. When they looked at the health records of 373 men, they found an association between height and longevity.

The shortest men and men who were lighter in weight outlived the tallest men in this study by an average of 7.5 years. A larger study looking at 1679 men and women also found a link between height and longevity - with shorter people having the advantage.

Research published in the journal of Experimental Gerontology came to a similar conclusion. After looking at numerous studies, they concluded that shorter people have a lower risk of health problems including heart disease and cancer - compared to taller ones.

Not all studies show a link between shorter height and longevity. Some prior studies found a lower risk of health problems, particularly heart disease, among tall people, but these studies have been criticized because they looked at small populations. Studies looking at larger populations tell a different story.

Why Do Short People Live Longer?

There are a variety of reasons why short people may have the advantage when it comes to longevity. Taller people have more total cells that can potentially be damaged by cancer-inducing mutations. Plus, they produce more of a hormone called IGF-1 that causes cells to grow faster and increases the risk of cancer. This is especially true for tall people who are overweight or eat a calorie-rich diet. Taller people may have eaten more calories during childhood causing their cells to divide rapidly during their years of growth, leading to more mutations that could cause cancer later.

Height and Longevity: The Bottom Line?

Height is a factor you can't control once you've reached your adult height. On the other hand, giving kids too many calories during childhood may promote an unhealthy growth rate that could ultimately affect their longevity by increasing the risk of diseases like cancer. Make sure they get good nutrition - but without excess calories.

If you're a tall adult, avoid eating empty calories that could lead to weight gain. Taller people who are overweight are at even greater risk for health problems. Make every calorie count from a nutritional standpoint - and eat lots of fruits and vegetables to help protect your cells from mutations and cell damage.

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