Small people are more likely to develop diabetes

Study confirms correlation between height and disease risk

How tall will I be? Surprisingly, this question is also relevant in the context of diabetes. © xefstock / istock
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Surprising phenomenon: The individual risk of diabetes is also influenced by body size. As confirmed by a study, smaller people are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than large ones. One possible reason for this: on average, small people apparently have more liver fat and an overall unfavorable metabolism. They should therefore be examined in the context of early detection may be more closely meshed, so the conclusion of the team.

300 million people worldwide suffer from Type 2 diabetes mellitus. In this form of diabetes, the hormone can no longer have enough effect to transport sugar from the blood into the cells. As important risk factors for the disease in addition to a certain genetic predisposition include obesity, lack of exercise and a wrong diet.

Factor size in view

In addition, there has recently been a surprising correlation at first sight: body size also seems to play a role in the individual risk of diabetes, studies suggest. A similar phenomenon is already known by cancer. But while large people are at a disadvantage in the case of tumor disease, in the case of diabetes, a small stature apparently increases the risk of disease.

How strong is this effect - and how can it be explained? To find out, Clemens Wittenbecher from the German Institute of Human Nutrition in Potsdam-Rehbrücke and his colleagues have now once again taken a closer look at the factor of height. For their study, they analyzed data from 2, 662 German participants in the so-called EPIC study, who had been recruited between 1994 and 1998 and had been accompanied over a longer period of time.

Clear connection

As expected, these subjects also showed an association between height and the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes. Specifically, the evaluations revealed: Per ten centimeters more on the bar, the risk of diabetes in men fell by an average of 41 and in women by 33 percent. Other possible influencing factors such as age and lifestyle had previously been excluded. display

As Wittenbecher and his team found out, the influence of body size on normal weight people seemed to be particularly strong. On the other hand, the effect was weaker when measured at the waist circumference overweight or adipose large. "This could mean that the negative effect of an increased waist circumference counteracts the positive effects associated with body size, " explain the scientists.

Liver fat as an explanation?

But how does the connection between size and disease risk come about at all? In their search for answers, the researchers analyzed a number of biological values ​​that had been measured in the study participants - including the percentage of fat in the liver, lipid levels and the concentration of certain peptide hormones.

The results showed that when these factors were included in the calculations, the effect of body size was no longer so clear. For liver fat alone, for example, the researchers found that instead of the previous 40 percent, men only had to minimize their risk by 34 percent for every additional ten centimeters. For women, the value dropped from 33 to 13 percent.

Preventive measures

These observations suggest that body size has an indirect effect: on average, large people have less liver fat and an overall healthier metabolic profile. One possible explanation for this is that some researchers assume that a larger body size also reflects an over-supply of high-calorie food in pr may be phases of development. This could lead to lifelong programming in the womb, which has a positive effect on fat metabolism and insulin sensitivity.

In any case, it seems clear that even if the small size of the body is not the actual cause of the increased risk of diabetes, it could in future be added serve as a useful indicator to identify at-risk persons. In the opinion of Wittenbecher and his colleagues, for example, it makes sense to inspect small people more regularly for their cardiometabolic values ​​- and in particular to pay attention to liver fat.

"At the body size, of course, you can change little. However, measures that reduce liver fat could be a way to reduce the risk factor associated with the size factor for type 2 diabetes, "she concludes. (Diabetologia, 2019; doi: 10.1007 / s00125-019-04978-8)

Source: Diabetologia

- Daniel Albat