Terese Sara Høj Jørgensen PhD Assistant Professor Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences University of Copenhagen

What is the Link Between Body Height and Dementia?

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Terese Sara Høj Jørgensen PhD Assistant Professor Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences University of Copenhagen

Dr. Jørgense

Terese Sara Høj Jørgensen PhD
Assistant Professor
Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences
University of Copenhagen

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Dementia may develop as a result of both genetics and environmental exposures operating throughout the life course, and the risk of dementia may already be established early in life. Body height has a strong genetic component and is at the same time influenced by environmental factors early in life. Body height is an expression of growth early in life and a taller body height could express that the body has had an optimal development. At the same time, a shorter body height could be an indicator of harmful exposures early in life. A few smaller studies have identified a link between body height and dementia. However, rather than being a risk factor of dementia in itself, body height is likely an indicator of harmful exposures early in life and hereby linked to dementia. Body growth could furthermore be linked to dementia as an indicator of brain and cognitive reserve. Thus, to understand the relationship between body height and dementia, large scale high-quality longitudinal studies exploring the impact of early environmental factors and genetics to explain the link between body height and dementia were needed prior to this study.

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings? 

Response: In this study, we identified an association between body height and dementia even when we took early life intelligence and educational level into account and also when we conducted brother and twin-analyses where early life circumstances and partly shared genetics were accounted for. This indicate that the link we identify between body height and dementia is not explained by intelligence and educational level nor by early life circumstances and genetics shared by brothers. The relationship between body height and dementia identified in this study could be explained by shorter body height expressing exposure to childhood disease, nutrition, accidents and other life events that are not shared by brothers and through these mechanisms linked to dementia. 

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: In this study, we identified an association between body height and dementia even when we took early life intelligence and educational level into account and also when we conducted brother and twin-analyses where early life circumstances and partly shared genetics were accounted for. This indicate that the link we identify between body height and dementia is not explained by intelligence and educational level nor by early life circumstances and genetics shared by brothers. The relationship between body height and dementia identified in this study could be explained by shorter body height expressing exposure to childhood disease, nutrition, accidents and other life events that are not shared by brothers and through these mechanisms linked to dementia.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: We believe that the results from this study raise three questions for future research. First, it is important that future research investigate whether the results are generalizable to women as this study was restricted to men. Second, future research should explore the potential mechanisms that may be linking body height and dementia as we identified a relationship even when we accounted for early life intelligence level, educational level and factors shared by brothers e.g. early life socioeconomic circumstances and genetics. Third, future research should explore the specific contribution of genetic factors, independent of environmental factors, with distinction between mono- and dizygotic twins as we only partly accounted for shared genetics in brother and twin analyses.

Citations:

Terese Sara Høj Jørgensen, Gunhild Tidemann Okholm, Kaare Christensen, Thorkild IA Sørensen, Merere Osler. Body height in young adult men and risk of dementia later in adult life. eLife, 2020; 9 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.51168

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Feb 24, 2020 @ 10:42 pm

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