As if being immortalized in Randy Newman's "Short People" weren't insult enough, it now appears the medical community wants a piece of the action. Talking about kicking someone when they're already "down." Sorry...
Researchers at Tufts University find that shorter arm and leg length are associated with an increased risk of developing Alzheimer's and other dementias. This link had previously been observed in Asian populations, but this is the first study to validate the association in the United States.
"Because the development of the brain region most severely affected by Alzheimer's disease coincides with the greatest change in limb length, we thought it was possible that men and women with shorter limbs could be at greater risk for developing dementia and Alzheimer's disease," said Tuft's researcher Tina L. Huang, PhD.
Women were found to be at the greatest risk. Those women with the shortest arm spans were 50% more likely to develop Alzheimer's or dementia. A shorter span from a woman's knee to the floor also increased the risk. For men, only the shorter arm span was associated with an increased risk.
The findings suggest a link to early childhood development, with those children receiving a better diet developing more quickly and growing taller. "Reduced height for age, or stunting, is thought to be most closely tied to environment and the quality of diet in early life, which corresponds with periods of the fastest leg growth," said Huang. "As a result, environment in the first years of life may play an important role in determining future dementia risk."
So, while life certainly isn't fair, there are steps to be taken when raising your own children. Do all you can to feed them well and see they get a leg up in life. Oh, and the next time you see Randy Newman, go ahead - kick him in the shins.To read more about the study, see this from Reuters. To learn more about feeding your children a healthy diet, see Kids & Nutrition, a great site developed by North Dakota State University.