What a guy lacks in height, he may make up for in longevity. A new study published in PLOS ONE recently discovered a link between short men and a variation of a gene called FOXO3 that may lengthen their lifespan.
Researchers analyzed the data of some 8,000 Japanese-American men ranging from 4-foot-7 to 6-foot-2 for almost 50 years. For the first time in a human study of this kind, they found that males who developed a smaller body frame early on were more likely to carry a protective variation of the FOXO3 gene, which has also been previously associated with lower blood pressure and less cancer.
“Everyone has a FOXO3 gene, but it comes in three major forms that may impact mortality,” says one of the study's investigators Bradley Willcox, M.D., a professor at University of Hawaii at Mānoa. “One variation has the protective letter G in the DNA makeup, which may double one's odds of living to 100. Another variation has two Gs, which may triple the odds of becoming a centenarian,” he explains. Both variations of this gene appeared to be present in short men. “We could see that folks who were 5-foot-2 and shorter lived the longest. The taller you got, the shorter you lived,” Willcox says. This might explain why 55-year-old music artist Prince, who stands at 5-foot-2, doesn't look like he's aged a day in decades. And then there's actor Seth Green, who at 40 could still pass as a college kid.
This doesn't mean that all guys pushing 6 feet will keel over quicker. “You can increase your odds of living to age 90 by just avoiding common risk factors, like a high BMI, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and smoking,” Willcox assures. There's also a chance women may possess this protective genotype, which is what Willcox's team is hoping to research next. They've already begun collecting data on the original male participants' 2,000 male and female kids.
Bottom line: You shouldn't rule out a mate who meets you at eye-level or just below. Sure, hovering over him in heels might feel awkward at first, but if he embraces it (like tiny Tom Cruise with then-wife Nicole Kidman), it could work to your advantage. Considering how often we hear how husbands tend to croak before their wives, it's comforting to know that a petite partner might improve that fate and keep you company in the long haul.