Short Legs Linked to Type 2 Diabetes?

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Type 2 diabetes — the most frequent kind — may be slightly more common among adults with disproportionately short legs than in their leggier peers.

So says a study in the July edition of Diabetes Care.

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The researchers, who included Dr. Keiko Asao, MPH, of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, aren’t quite sure how to explain their findings. Hormones or nutrition before birth or in childhood may affect both development and diabetes risk, they suggest.

Type 2 diabetes is often linked to excess weight.

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Leg Link to Diabetes?

In their study, Asao and colleagues checked data from a U.S. health survey given from 1988-1994. Participants included about 3,600 men and 3,800 women aged 40 to 74 years (average age: about 55 years).

The nationally representative survey included physical exams and lab tests. During those checkups, participants’ height and leg length were measured.

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Being short didn’t affect diabetes risk, after adjusting for other factors. But having a low leg-to-height ratio was associated with a slightly higher risk of type 2 diabetes, based on blood sugar tests given during the checkups, even after weighing other risk factors.

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More Established Risk Factors

While the researchers try to figure out the leg length connection, there are plenty of other, more established diabetes risk factors to watch for, including:

—Family history of diabetes

—Age 45 and older

—Being overweight

—Sedentary lifestyle

—High blood pressure

—Abnormal cholesterol levels

—History of diabetes during pregnancy

—History of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

—History of vascular disease, such as stroke Race or ethnic background (diabetes risk is higher for Hispanics, blacks, Native Americans, and Asians).

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Diabetes Signs

Diabetes often goes undiagnosed. More than 6 million Americans have type 2 diabetes and don’t know it, according to the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse.

Warning signs include:

—Increased thirst

—Increased hunger


—Increased urination, especially at night

—Weight loss

—Blurred vision

—Sores that do not heal

See your doctor to get screened for diabetes.

By Miranda Hitti, reviewed by Dr. Louise Chang

SOURCES: Asao, K. Diabetes Care, July 2006; vol 29: pp 1632-1637. WebMD Medical Reference in collaboration with The Cleveland Clinic: “Diabetes: Are You at Risk?” National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse: “What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes?”