Short legs linked to an increased risk of liver disease

February 29, 2016

The research contributes to a growing body of evidence on the link between leg length and health.

The findings are based on almost 4300 women between the ages of 60 and 79, who had been randomly selected from 23 British towns.

Standing and seated height were measured to include leg and trunk length, and blood samples were taken to measure levels of four liver enzymes, ALT, GGT, AST and ALP.

These enzymes indicate how well the liver is working and whether it has been damaged. ALP is also an indicator of bone disease, such as osteoporosis.

The women were also quizzed in detail about their medical history, lifestyle, and social class, all of which are likely to influence health and stature.

Complete information was available for just over 3600 of the women.

The analysis showed that the longer the leg length, the lower were levels of ALT, GGT, and ALP. ALT levels, in particular, were lowest among the women with the longest legs.

ALT and ALP were highest among those women with the shortest trunk length.

The findings held true after adjusting for influential factors such as age, childhood social class, adult alcohol consumption, exercise, and smoking.

And the results remained the same after excluding those women who already had liver cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or osteoporosis.

???Our interpretation of the results is that childhood exposures, such as good nutrition that influence growth patterns also influence liver development and therefore levels of liver enzymes in adulthood and/or the propensity for liver damage,??? say the authors.

Greater height may boost the size of the liver, which may decrease enzyme levels so ensuring that the liver is able to withstand chemical onslaught much more effectively, they add.

There may also be factors in common with the increased risks of other diseases, as ALT, GGT, AST and ALP are also associated with diabetes and cardiovascular disease, they say.


This suggests that some patients who are obese but not morbidly obese could benefit from bariatric surgery, which can help reduce cardiovascular disease, said Dr. Livingston.

Dr. Nicola Abate, associate professor of internal medicine in the Center for Human Nutrition at UT Southwestern and the study's co-author, said it's possible that very obese patients simply have a greater capacity to store excessive calories in their adipocytes, or fat cells, thereby preventing excessive fat from spilling into the bloodstream, where it contributes to heart disease.

???Our findings suggest that there is a group of individuals who have an almost unlimited ability to store excess calories as fat. This prevents changes in plasma metabolites, such as triglycerides and cholesterol, which promote risk for heart disease,??? Dr. Abate said. ???In contrast, those who can't store as much fat and who only accumulate fat in the upper body often have excessive plasma concentrations of triglycerides and cholesterol, which will increase their risk for heart disease. Even though their BMI may be below the current recommended cutoff, these patients could potentially benefit from bariatric surgery.???