How height is related to our health and longevity: a review

Nutr Health. 2012 Oct;21(4):247-61. doi: 10.1177/0260106013510996.


Most people believe that being taller and heavier is a sign of higher social status and privilege; however, an objective evaluation of the advantages and disadvantages of increased body size (excluding obesity) indicated that shorter, smaller bodies have numerous advantages in terms of health and longevity. With healthful nutrition and lifestyles, and good medical care, shorter people are less likely to suffer from age-related chronic diseases and more likely to reach advanced ages. A variety of biological factors explain the inherent benefits of smaller bodies. These include reduced cell replication, much lower DNA damage and reduced cancer incidence. Other beneficial factors include higher sex hormone binding globulin, higher insulin-like growth factor binding protein-1, lower insulin and lower insulin-like growth factor-1. We discuss recommendations for how taller people can minimize their risks. Future public health practices should focus on healthful nutrition, without promoting continued secular growth in height and weight.

Keywords: Blood pressure; cancer; cardiovascular disease; centenarians; chronic disease; free radicals; health; height; insulin; insulin-like growth factor-1; longevity; mortality; nutrition; risk factors; sex hormone binding globulin.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology
  • Body Height / genetics
  • Body Height / physiology*
  • Chronic Disease / prevention & control
  • DNA Damage
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Life Style*
  • Longevity*
  • Male
  • Nutritional Status*
  • Risk Factors