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Shorter Legs Might Boost Liver Risks

Childhood nutrition may be the link, British team says

FRIDAY, Dec. 21 (HealthDay News) -- People with short legs may have an increased risk of liver disease, suggests a study that adds to growing evidence of a link between leg length and health.

Researchers at the University of Bristol analyzed leg and torso measurements, as well as blood samples, from 4,300 women, ages 60 to 79, in 23 British towns.

The blood samples were checked for levels of four liver enzymes -- ALT, GGT, AST and ALP -- that indicate how well the liver is working and whether it's been damaged.

ALP is also an indicator of bone disease, such as osteoporosis.

The women were also asked about their medical history, lifestyle and social class -- all of which can influence health and body stature.

The researchers found that longer leg length was associated with lower levels of ALT, GGT, and ALP. ALT levels were lowest among women with the longest legs, while ALT and ALP levels were highest among women with the shortest torso length.

These findings held true after the researchers adjusted for important factors such as age, alcohol consumption, smoking, exercise, and childhood social class, and after the researchers excluded 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," the study authors wrote.

The study was published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has more about liver disease.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: BMJ Specialist Journals, news release, Dec. 18, 2007

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