BEIJING -- People with longer arms and legs are less likely to develop memory problems later in life, according to a US study published on Monday.
The study, which appears in the journal Neurology, showed that women with longer legs had a much lower risk of dementia, with every extra inch of leg reducing their risk by 16 percent. Women with the shortest arms were 50 percent more likely to develop the disease than those with the longest arms. In men, only arm span was associated with a lower risk of dementia.
Researchers say the association between short limbs and dementia risk may be due to poor nutrition in early life, which can affect limb growth.
"Body measures such as knee height and arm span are often used as biological indicators of early life deficits, such as a lack of nutrients," said Tina Huang of Tufts University in Boston, who led the study.
She and colleagues studied 2,798 people for an average of five years and took knee height and arm span measurements. Most people in the study were white, with an average age of 72.
By the end of the study, 480 had developed dementia.
"Our findings are consistent with other studies that have been done in Korean populations, where shorter limb length was associated with greater risk of dementia," said Huang.