Standing head and shoulders above the crowd has its benefits—but those extra inches can come at a cost. According to a new study, being taller has been linked to a number of diseases in origin ranging from varicose veins to peripheral nerve damage.
An international team of researchers compared measures of height, both genetic and physical, with the presence of more than a thousand traits in more than 280,000 American adults, confirming the suspicion that height is linked to a number of common diseases.
“Using genetic methods implemented in the VA Million Veterans Program, we found evidence that adult height can affect more than 100 clinical symptoms, including a number of conditions associated with poor outcomes and quality of life – peripheral neuropathy. , lower extremity ulcers, and chronic venous insufficiency,” says study lead author Sridharan Raghavan from Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center in the US.
“We conclude that height may be an unrecognized non-modifiable risk factor for many common conditions in adults.”
Scientists have known for some time that tall people have a higher risk of various types of cancer, not to mention conditions such as a ruptured aorta and pulmonary embolism.
Not that younger people have it much better, facing increased chances of coronary disease, stroke, liver disease and mental health disorders.
It remains unclear whether these health challenges are tied specifically to the biology of height, or are the result of environmental conditions such as poor nutrition or harmful socio-cultural influences, which can also affect one’s height.
Moving beyond measured height and comparisons to medical reports, this latest analysis used genetic data linked to the clinical records of more than 200,000 white and 50,000 black adults from US Veterans Affairs’ Million Veterans Program.
Using a method of associating genes with known functions for the presence of disease, the team attempted to match thousands of genetic variations known to affect a person’s height with more than a thousand characteristics associated with the disease. Tried.
A similar comparison was also made based on measured height, which averaged 176 centimeters (5 ft 9 in).
Given prior studies using similar methods looked at no more than 50 traits, using a much smaller genetic database, the new analysis may be considered the largest of its kind.
When it comes to cardiovascular conditions such as high blood pressure, hyperlipidemia and coronary heart disease, this finding supports previous studies that have linked hypertension, hyperlipidemia and coronary heart disease at the expense of being more prone to atrial fibrillation and varicose veins. talks.
He also added a few more conditions to the risk list, including skin and bone infections, and a type of nerve damage to the extremities called peripheral neuropathy.
Thanks to the fact that the sample size was so large, the team also honed in on the role of gender, with asthma and nonspecific peripheral nerve disorders being associated with increased height in women, but not in men.
Making tight links between multiple genes for height and various pathological traits makes it less likely that we can point fingers at mixed environmental causes, or even the effect of body mass – but still. It does not explain how long genes can lead to diseases.
Additional studies may help address the cause, identify the underlying biochemistry or point to a way to return physical shape to our body’s functionality.
Future research will help amplify some of the study’s weaknesses, by using more relevant genetic libraries that extend beyond European ancestry and sample a wider portion of the population so that black and Hispanic populations, more than non-veterans and women. be able to join
There’s not much we can do about our height, but knowing how it relates to our health can at least help us stay vigilant about things we can do something about.
This research was published in plus genetics,