Cancer and diabetes are man-made diseases

The risk of cancer increases with height

TÜBINGEN. Tall people have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, but a higher risk of cancer, regardless of body fat mass and other modulating factors.

A high-calorie diet with plenty of milk and dairy products in rapid growth phases, such as during pregnancy, could be responsible for the connection between body size and disease risk, as scientists from the German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD) write in a publication (Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology 2016; online January 27).

Big ones are more sensitive to insulin

Because a high-calorie diet could already lead to a lifelong metabolism programming in the womb, which has so far been proven primarily for the insulin-like growth factor-1 and -2 as well as the IGF-1/2 system, the researchers write around Professor Norbert Stefan.

The activation of this system leads, among other things, to the fact that the body is more sensitive to the effects of the insulin and also has a favorable effect on the fat metabolism.

The researchers explain that their data have now also proven this connection. Tall people are more sensitive to insulin and have less fat in the liver. That could explain their low risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

At the same time, the activation of the IGF-1/2 system and other signaling pathways can also have disadvantages: By permanently promoting cell growth through activation of the system, the risk of certain types of cancer could also increase, especially breast cancer, colon cancer and black skin cancer the authors suspect.

Lower risk of cardiovascular disease

A large body size has a positive effect and reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes, but also negative ones: the risk of cancer increases.

"Epidemiological data show that for every 6.5 centimeters of height the risk of cardiovascular mortality decreases by six percent, but cancer mortality increases by four percent," study author Professor Matthias Schulze is quoted in a statement from the DZD.

The high-calorie diet in rapid growth phases could also be the reason why people are getting taller, the scientists believe.

Although body size is largely determined genetically, it has been observed worldwide in recent decades that children in adulthood are almost always significantly larger than their parents.

For example in the Netherlands: Men are now 20 centimeters taller than they were 150 years ago. Interestingly, this is also where the per capita consumption of milk and dairy products is highest worldwide.

The scientists advocate increasing the factor of height and body size when preventing these widespread diseases.

In particular, doctors should be made aware that tall people, although less likely to have cardiovascular disease or type 2 diabetes, are at increased risk of developing cancer. After all, nutrition, especially during pregnancy and in childhood and adolescence, is of a so far underestimated importance. (bae / eb)