New statistical analyses show that taller people, on average, tend to live longer lives than shorter people. Scientists wonder if this has always been true.

To answer that question, British researchers analyzed 490 sets of adult skeletal remains from an excavation site at a church in northeastern England. Researchers at the University of Bristol, led by David Gunnell, compared the estimated age of the deceased to the length of their long bones, such as the femur (leg) and humerus (arm). ?The longer the bones, the more likely the person was taller,? says Gunnell, who published a paper on his research in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

Since the bones were from anonymous graves, without headstones or records, archeologists determined the lifespan of the skeletons by measuring their molar erosion. They estimated that the dead had been buried sometime between the ninth and 19th centuries.

Gunnell found that short bones meant a short life ? 178 men and 123 women died before age 45 and 124 men and 94 women died before age 30. ?For all bones examined, the odds of death before the age of 30 decreased as bone length increased,? he says.

The researchers guess that taller people tend to live longer because of economic and health reasons. But even among people of the same social class, taller people still do better than shorter ones, leading researchers to believe that nutritional deficiencies and/or disease early in life ? both of which can influence growth ? determine later health. The differences in lifespan are subtle and found at the extremes of height.

In the Americas, lowland living Mayans were the shortest and died relatively earlier because they did not eat enough animal protein and suffered from diseases caused by living in congested areas, according to Michael Haines, economic professor at Colgate University and an expert in body measurement and outcome issues. The Northern Plains? equestrian hunters were the tallest and lived longer because they were meat-eaters, had long birth intervals and moved around a lot, he says.

Height differences today are still important, reflecting information about health status. ?Americans will be surprised to learn that they are no longest the tallest people on Earth,? says Haines, adding that Americans also have a high infant mortality rate. ?We are the wealthiest country in the world. We should be the tallest.?

We should we eat plenty of protein in order to live longer, taller lives, but what should we eat in order to look better while we?re aging? According to the July/August issue of Reader’s Digest, the more vegetables, olive oil, fish, peas and beans, and low-fat milk products people eat, the fewer wrinkles they get.

A study of 450 Australians, Greeks, and Swedes 70 years-of-age and older was published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition. It revealed that Greeks who ate a lot of green, leafy vegetables and beans had fewer wrinkles than fellow Greeks who ate processed meat, pudding, dessert, or butter. Australians who ate sardines, asparagus, grapes, melons, multigrain bread and tea looked the best. So did Swedes who went easy on roast beef, fried potatoes, ice cream, jam and soft drinks but emphasized skim milk, low-fat yogurt, lima beans and spinach pie.

Foods high in vitamin C, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron and zinc also seemed to protect the skin from wrinkles. The more full-fat dairy foods, butter, margarine, red meat (especially processed meat), soft drinks, and cakes and pastries the participants allowed themselves, the more wrinkled their skin became.

Those of us with a weight problem know that fat people tend to wrinkle less. Now scientists say obesity could be contagious.

Chickens that were injected with a human virus mysteriously put on weight despite having no changes in their diet. Healthy birds were then injected with blood from infected ones and they got fat as well, proving that the virus was responsible.

Even chickens which were placed in the same cage as infected ones showed signs of the virus within 12 hours. The study was carried out by a team at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, which originally just wanted to find out if a human virus could infect chickens. Nikhil Dhurandher, who lead the work, chose the little-known human adenovirus Ad-36 at random for the tests.

He told the science journal Nature: ?Within five weeks the birds carried at least 35% extra fat, qualifying many of them as obese.? Early studies on obese humans have found higher levels of antibodies against Ad-36, showing that they may have experienced an infection.

If we?re going to live longer, we want to function well into old age. 50% of us will be glad to learn that according to a new study, women stay smarter in old age than men because of a better flow of oxygen to the brain.

Even though the men in the study were better educated, the women were more mentally active and had better memories when they were 85 and older than their male counterparts. The researchers, from the Leiden University Medical Center in Holland, have theorized this is because women have better cardiovascular systems, so more oxygen gets to their brains and keeps the cells alive longer.

Female hormones protect women from the effects of cardiovascular disease and as a result, women generally have lower rates of heart disease and circulatory disorders.Their blood flow to their brains remains healthy longer than men, and consequently their brains remain better able to work. ?Our study shows that despite a lower level of education, women have better cognitive function than men,? the authors have written, in their study published in the latest issue of the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry. ?Limited formal education alone … cannot explain the differences in cognitive function in women and men.?

The team gave a test to 599 people aged 85 and older. They found that although 70 per cent of the women had six years or less of formal education, compared with just over half of the men, the women performed better. They found that 33 per cent of the women and 28 per cent of men had good mental speed, while 41 per cent of the women but just 29 per cent of the men had a good memory.

Earlier research has shown that people with lower education levels were more likely to get dementia in old age and this had been more common in women than in men. Yet this new study ?showed better cognitive performance in the female group, despite their lower level of formal education.?

While the journal gave credit to the idea that it was the women?s better cardiovascular health that caused the result, it also suggested that ?formal education may be less important than later life experiences? in maintaining good mental ability into old age.?A follow-up … study might examine the role of non-educational experiences on cognitive functioning between men and women,? the journal said.

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