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Twin Res. 2001 Oct;4(5):356-64.

The influence of zygosity and chorion type on fat distribution in young adult twins consequences for twin studies.

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  • 1Faculty of Medicine, Department of Sport and Movement Sciences, Katholieke Universiteit, Leuven, Belgium. ruth.loos@med.kuleuven.ac.be


An adverse intra-uterine environment has been associated with abdominal fat distribution in singletons. Twins often have a low birth weight and a short gestation. Therefore, they may have an increased risk to develop abdominal obesity. Furthermore, monozygotic monochorionic twins (MZ MC) have a larger intra-pair birth weight difference compared to monozygotic dichorionic twins (MZ DC). If adult anthropometry is programmed in utero, this may affect the intra-pair correlations in adulthood and, consequently, also the results from the classic twin method to estimate genetic and environmental influences. In the present study, we compared the absolute values, the intra-pair differences, and the intra-pair correlations of body mass, height, BMI, and abdominal fat distribution of 424 MZ MC, MZ DC and dizygotic (DZ) twin pairs (aged 18-34 yrs). DZ, MZ DC and MZ MC twins did not differ for most anthropometric characteristics. Only MZ women tended (p = 0.03) to accumulate more abdominal fat compared to DZ twins. Overall, the contribution of zygosity and chorion type to adult anthropometry was rather low (< or = 1.7%). Although the intra-pair birth weight difference of MZ MC pairs (10.5% in men, 12.3% in women) was significantly larger compared to that of MZ DC pairs (6.9% and 9.2% resp.), the intra-pair differences in adult anthropometry were similar for both MZ twin types. Also the intra-pair correlations of MZ MC and MZ DC pairs were strikingly alike, suggesting no significant influence of the prenatal environment on adult concordance. In conclusion, the substantial difference in the prenatal environment of MZ MC and MZ DC twins did not result in a difference in intra-pair concordance of adult anthropometry and fat distribution. Therefore, we suggest that the chorion type of MZ twins does not bias the twin design and the estimation of the genetic contribution to adult anthropometry.

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