left: Chris Jackson/Getty Images, right: Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Britain’s tallest man sadly died last month - there's a trend for 'giants' to die younger than shorter people.

And researchers may have found why.

Neil Fingleton was seven feet and seven inches tall, a Guiness World Record holder, basketball player, and only 36 years old when he died.

Though the cause is not yet known, this young age is not uncommon among tall people. Wrestler Andre the Giant (seven feet-four inches, died age 46), Matthew McGory (seven feet, six inches, died age 32), Robert Wadlow (eight feet, 11 inches, died age 22) are some of the more famous tall men to have sadly died at a young age.

By contrast, the inhabitants of the Japanese island of Okinawa (who have an average height of five foot) were found to have the longest life expectancy on earth for men: age 78.

Scientists believe that the same factors behind higher-than-average growth could also be what leads to premature death.

The brain’s pituitary gland, which produces hormones and kicks off the process of puberty (when most people undergo a growth spurt) can develop tumours that cause too much of our growth hormone to be produced. The resulting effect is termed ‘gigantism’.

Clinical professor Alexander Vortmeyer told Gizmodo that heart failure is the most common cause of death among taller persons. Heart failure can occur when these extra doses of the growth hormone take their toll on the heart.

The Postgraduate Medical Journalof the British Medical Journal suggests the hormones make the heart thicker in disproportion to its blood-pumping chambers. Other problems can include diabetes, due to the hormone’s effect on insulin.

Taller people need not be worried. Although heart disease is a risk, a study by Journal of Epidemiology & Community Healthfound that taller people had a decreased risk of heart disease, and even then, height was a less important factor than things such as regular exercise and healthy eating.


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