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Shorter Men Tend to Live Longer, Study Finds

Update Date: May 10, 2014 10:29 AM EDT

In a new study, researchers examined the relationship between height and life expectancy. The team focused on Japanese men since Japan has the highest rate of people living over 100-years-old, also known as centenarians. They found that shorter men who were of Japanese descent residing in Hawaii tended to live longer than taller men of the same origins.

For this study, the researchers at the Kuakini Medical Center, the UH John A. Burns School of Medicine and U.S. Veterans Affairs analyzed data taken from the Kuakini Honolulu Heart Program (HHP) and the Kuakini Honolulu-Asia Aging Study. The Kuakini HHP was started in 1965 and involved 8,006 Japanese-American men that were born between 1900 and 1919. Overall, the researchers counted that around 1,200 men lived into their 90s and 100s. Roughly 250 of them are still alive today.

"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."

The researchers discovered that the relationship between height and life expectancy could be due to genes. They found that shorter men were more likely to carry the FOXO3 gene, which has been tied to a smaller body size and a longer life expectancy. The researchers found that the shorter men were also less likely to have cancer and more likely to have lower blood insulin levels.

"This study shows for the first time, that body size is linked to this gene," said Dr. Willcox according to Medical Xpress. "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."

The study, "Shorter Men Live Longer: Association of Height with Longevity and FOXO3Genotype in American Men of Japanese Ancestry," was published in PLOS ONE.

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