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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 December 2007, 00:07 GMT
Short-legged 'may run liver risk'
Leg length is increasingly being linked to health, the study says
Women with shorter legs may have an increased risk of liver disease, an extensive UK study suggests.

Researchers looked at 4,300 women between the ages of 60 and 79.

They found the shorter-legged women had higher levels of four liver enzymes which indicate how well the organ is working and if it has been damaged.

There is a growing body of evidence to link leg length and health, the Bristol University team wrote in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

The reserachers randomly selected participants from the British Women's Health and Heart Study. They were drawn from 43 British towns.

Childhood factors

Both leg and full height were measured, and blood samples taken to measure four liver enzymes: ALT, GGT, ALP and AST.

The study clearly asserts the importance of a healthy lifestyle particularly from a young age
British Liver Trust

The longer the leg length, the lower the levels of three of these enzymes.

The team, led by Dr Abigail Fraser, speculated that their findings were linked to upbringing.

"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," they wrote.

At the same time, they added, "greater height may boost the size of the liver, which may decrease enzyme levels so ensuring that the liver is able to withstand chemical onslaught more effectively."

"This is a very interesting study and we would be keen to see any further research relating to these initial findings," said a spokesperson from the British Liver Trust.

"The study clearly asserts the importance of a healthy lifestyle particularly from a young age. We would like to encourage everyone to maintain a healthy diet in order to prevent themselves from fatty liver disease - something which is not alcohol related - which affects an estimated one in five people in the UK."

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