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Short Legs Early Risk Factor for Type 2 Diabetes

Posted: Friday, July 21, 2006

Being short and especially having short legs appear to increase the risk being overweight and developing type 2 diabetes in middle age, new research shows.

As reported in Diabetes Care, "Our study shows that adult stature can be helpful in predicting the risk of diabetes independently from other known risk factors."

The length of a person's legs is an indicator of childhood nutrition, which may have long-lasting effects on health, note Dr. Keiko Asao and colleagues from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Short leg length and low leg length-to-height ratio are two indicators of suboptimal childhood development.

Asao's team studied the relationship between stature-related measurements, amount of body fat and two pre-diabetic conditions -- insulin resistance, in which the body is resistant to the blood-sugar regulating hormone insulin, and glucose intolerance, marked by elevated blood sugar levels. The study included 7,424 men and women between 40 and 74 years old.

In women, percent body fat was significantly higher in those with shorter height, shorter leg length, and lower leg length-to-height ratio, even after considering factors know to influence body fat.

A similar pattern was noted in men, although none of the associations reached statistical significance.

Lower leg length-to-height ratio, but not height or leg length, was also associated with greater levels of insulin resistance in subjects without diabetes.

And all three body features (shorter height, shorter leg length, and lower leg length-to-height ratio) were associated with a higher prevalence of diabetes. For example, a 1-standard deviation lower leg length-to-height ratio was associated with a 19 percent greater risk of having type 2 diabetes.

"Insofar as adult stature is an indicator of development and growth during early life," conclude the investigators, the risk of obesity and diabetes in adulthood "might begin to accrue before puberty." Therefore, interventions to improve childhood nutrition "could represent novel means to combat the epidemic of obesity and type 2 diabetes," they offer.



Source: Diabetes In Control: Diabetes Care, July 2006

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