short men live longer
May 11, 2014

Shorter Men May Live Longer Thanks To An Enhanced Longevity Gene

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Guys who are less tall may feel as though they wound up with the short end of the stick, but new research appearing in the peer-reviewed medical journal PLOS ONE suggests that they are more likely to outlive their taller male counterparts.

In the study, researchers from the Kuakini Medical Center, the University of Hawaii’s John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) and the US Veteran Affairs department concluded that shorter men were more likely to have a protective form of the longevity gene, also known as FOXO3.

The presence of this gene results in smaller body size and a longer lifespan, as well as lower blood insulin levels and a lower prevalence of cancer. The authors studied over 8,000 American men of Japanese ancestry, monitoring their health conditions closely for nearly five decades.

All of the subjects were participants in the Kuakini Honolulu Heart Program (HHP) and the Kuakini Honolulu-Asia Aging Study (HAAS). The Kuakini HHP began in 1965, and the 8,006 participants (all but three of whom also participated in this study) were born between the year of 1900 and 1919.

“We split people into two groups – those who were 5-foot-2 and shorter, and 5-4 and taller,” Dr. Bradley Willcox, one of the researchers involved in the study and a professor at JABSOM’s Department of Geriatric Medicine, said in a statement. “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.”

“This study shows, for the first time, that body size is linked to this gene,” he added. “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.”

Dr. Willcox and his colleagues emphasize that additional research is required in order to verify the results of their work, as well as to make sure that the findings can be applied to other ethnic groups of populations. He added that there is no specific height or age range, because no matter what a person’s height is, he or she can make up for having a regular FOXO3 gene and not a longevity-enhanced one by living a healthy lifestyle.

About 1,200 men who participated in the study lived into their 90s and 100s, and nearly 250 of them are alive today. The project was funded by the National Institutes of Health’s National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and the National Institute on Aging, as well as the Kuakini Medical Center and the Department of Veterans Affairs.