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Shorter Men Live Longer: Study

May 12, 2014 03:22 PM EDT

Short height and a long life have a direct connection in Japanese men, according to new research published in the journal PLOS ONE.

The secret short men hold lies in their genes. The study found that shorter men tend to have a protective form of the longevity gene, FOXO3, leading to smaller body size during early development and a longer lifespan. Shorter men were also more likely to have lower blood insulin levels and less cancer.

"This study shows for the first time that body size is linked to this gene," Dr. Bradley Willcox, professor at the University of Hawaii, said in a statement. "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 research is based on the Kuakini Honolulu Heart Program (HHP) and the Kuakini Honolulu-Asia Aging Study (HAAS).

Parrticipants were split into two groups: those that were 5-foot-2 and shorter and 5-foot-4 and taller. The findings showed that men who were 5'2 and shorter lived the longest. And the taller they were, the shorter they lived.

Although, Willcox notes, there is no specific height or age range that should be targeted as a cut-off in the study, in part because "no matter how tall you are, you can still live a healthy lifestyle" to offset lacking the longevity-enhancing form of the FOXO3 gene.

The Kuakini HHP - one of the largest studies of Japanese-American men to include epidemiological and clinical data for almost 50 years - started in 1965 with 8,006 men. About 1,200 men from the study lived into their 90s and 100s, and approximately 250 of those men are still alive today.

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