In The Longevity Game, Shorter Men Win

Using data from one of the world's oldest continuing studies of aging men, researchers have discovered a possible connection -- in the form of a certain type of gene -- between body height and lifespan.

What's the Latest Development?

A newly published paper in PLOS ONE using data from a nearly 50-year-old study reveals that a certain protective form of the longevity gene FOXO3 was commonly found in men who stood 5'2" or less, and that those men lived longer than their taller counterparts. In fact, says study investigator and University of Hawaii professor Dr. Bradley Willcox, across a 12-inch range from five to six feet, "the taller [they] got, the shorter [they] lived." The shorter men also tended to have lower blood insulin levels and less cancer. Willcox also notes that healthy living can still offset having a typical genotype "no matter how tall you are."

What's the Big Idea?

Similar connections between longevity and body size had been made in animals ranging from yeast to mice, but the study represents the first time one has been discovered in humans. The data came from the Kuakini Honolulu Heart Program, which since 1965 has been monitoring the health and lifestyle conditions of over 8,000 American men of Japanese ancestry who were born between 1900 and 1919. A little less than one-sixth of those men lived into their 90s and 100s, and another 250 are still alive today.

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