While being taller has been correlated with success in life, being short also has its perks: a team of researchers has shown that shorter men tend to live longer.

“We split people into two groups — those that were 5-foot-2 and shorter, and 5-4 and taller,” said Dr. Bradley Willcox, one of the investigators for the study and a Professor in the University of Hawai`i (UH) John A. Burns School of Medicine’s Department of Geriatric Medicine. “The folks that were 5-2 and shorter lived the longest. The range was seen all the way across from being 5-foot tall to 6-foot tall. The taller you got, the shorter you lived.”

Dr. Willcox in the laboratory.

Researchers at the Kuakini Medical Center, the UH John A. Burns School of Medicine and U.S. Veterans Affairs worked on the study, which was focused on Japanese men. They showed that shorter men were more likely to have a gene linked to longevity – FOXO3. Shorter men also tended to have lower insulin levels and less cancer.

“This study shows for the first time, that body size is linked to this gene,” said Dr. Willcox. “We knew that in animal models of aging. We did not know that in humans. We have the same or a slightly different version in mice, roundworms, flies, even yeast has a version of this gene, and it’s important in longevity across all these species.”

However, researchers emphasize that you shouldn’t take this as a negative thing – no matter how tall or short you are, you can still lead a healthy life.

The study was started in 1965 with 8,006 American men of Japanese ancestry born between the years 1900 and 1919. Interestingly enough, 1,200 men from the study lived into their 90s and 100s, and approximately 250 of those men are still alive today.

“One of the reasons why Honolulu is perfect for this kind of study is that we have the longest-lived state in the country, combined with a population that has remained, for the most part, in Hawaii. This has helped us maintain one of the longest-running, largest studies of aging men in the world, in the Kuakini Honolulu Heart Program,” Dr. Willcox said.

Journal Reference:
Qimei He, Brian J. Morris, John S. Grove, Helen Petrovitch, Webster Ross, Kamal H. Masaki, Beatriz Rodriguez, Randi Chen, Timothy A. Donlon, D. Craig Willcox, Bradley J. Willcox. Shorter Men Live Longer: Association of Height with Longevity and FOXO3 Genotype in American Men of Japanese Ancestry. PLoS ONE, 2014; 9 (5): e94385 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0094385

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