Researchers looking for the long and short of the association between height and coronary artery disease (CAD) zeroed in on lipid profiles in a genetic study published online April 8 in the New England Journal of Medicine.
C.P. Nelson, PhD, of the University of Leicester in the U.K., and colleagues wanted to explore the mechanisms behind what has been observed in epidemiology studies: People short in stature may be at increased risk of CAD. They focused on genetic variants that are associated with height, using 180 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that explain 10 percent of the variation in height.
They obtained CAD-associated data from these same variants and looked at genome-related data sets from meta-analyses of CAD risk. Their study included 65,066 CAD cases and 128,383 controls as well as genotype data from 18,249 people to assess the risk of CAD when the SNPs were present.
Nelson et al found a significant association between SNPs and CAD, a finding that supports results in the epidemiological studies. In an analysis of the variants and cardiovascular risk factors, they identified only two risk factors that were significant: low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Those two risk factors accounted for 30 percent of the association.
“Part of this inverse association may be driven by the association between shorter height and an adverse lipid profile, although the majority of the relationship is likely to be determined by shared biologic processes that determine achieved height and atherosclerosis development,” they proposed.