Tall toddlers and rapidly growing teens are likely to find themselves with lower cholesterol, particularly the "bad" type, in later life, suggests research in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
Conversely, piling on the pounds after the age of 15 boosted cholesterol levels, the study showed.
The findings are based on just under 3000 participants of a Medical Research Council long term study, tracking a representative sample of 5362 people born in one week of March in 1946.
Heights and weights were measured at the ages of 2, 4, 7, 15, 36 and 53. When participants reached the age of 53, blood samples were taken to measure cholesterol levels.
When all the figures were analysed, the results showed that the faster height was gained before the age of 2, and after the age of 15, the lower was the cholesterol level at the age of 53.
Growth in leg length, rather than trunk length, was more strongly associated with lower cholesterol levels.
Higher body fat levels at the ages of 36 and 53, and more rapid weight gain between the ages of 15 and 53, were associated with higher total cholesterol levels, including higher levels of the harmful low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.
The researchers found that the effects of the growth spurts in either height or girth could not be explained by weight at birth, which is a well known factor in adult health, or lifetime socioeconomic status.