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Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 Aug;94(2):404-9. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.111.012195. Epub 2011 Jun 15.

Effects of social contact and zygosity on 21-y weight change in male twins.

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  • 1Miriam Hospital, Providence, RI, USA.



Recent evidence indicates that social contact is related to similarities in weight gain over time. However, no studies have examined this effect in a twin design, in which genetic and other environmental effects can also be estimated.


We determined whether the frequency of social contact is associated with similarity in weight change from young adulthood (mean age: 20 y) to middle age (mean age: 41 y) in twins and quantified the percentage of variance in weight change attributable to social contact, genetic factors, and other environmental influences.


Participants were 1966 monozygotic and 1529 dizygotic male twin pairs from the Vietnam-Era Twin Registry. Regression models tested whether frequency of social contact and zygosity predicted twin pair similarity in body mass index (BMI) change and weight change. Twin modeling was used to partition the percentage variance attributable to social contact, genetic, and other environmental effects.


Twins gained an average of 3.99 BMI units, or 13.23 kg (29.11 lb), over 21 y. In regression models, both zygosity (P < 0.001) and degree of social contact (P < 0.02) significantly predicted twin pair similarity in BMI change. In twin modeling, social contact between twins contributed 16% of the variance in BMI change (P < 0.001), whereas genetic factors contributed 42%, with no effect of additional shared environmental factors (1%). Similar results were obtained for weight change.


Frequency of social contact significantly predicted twin pair similarity in BMI and weight change over 21 y, independent of zygosity and other shared environmental influences.

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