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Metab Syndr Relat Disord. 2011 Dec;9(6):475-82. doi: 10.1089/met.2011.0021. Epub 2011 Aug 17.

Genetic associations with metabolic syndrome and its quantitative traits by race/ethnicity in the United States.

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  • 1General Medicine Division, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, USA.



Elevated insulin resistance (IR), triglycerides (TG), body mass index (BMI), and waist circumference (WC) are features of the metabolic syndrome. Although several single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with these traits have been reported, no study has reported their risk allele frequencies and effect sizes among the major U.S. race/ethnic groups in a nationally representative sample.


We compared the risk allele frequencies of eight SNPs previously associated with IR, TG, BMI, or WC by race/ethnicity (non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic black, Mexican American) in 3,030 participants of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Study III (NHANES III). In regression models predicting IR, TG, BMI, WC, and metabolic syndrome, we tested whether the SNP effect sizes on these traits varied by race/ethnicity.


Risk allele frequencies varied by race/ethnicity for all eight loci (P<0.0001). The directionality of effects of the variants on IR, TG, WC, and BMI was generally consistent with previous observations and did not differ by race/ethnicity (P>0.001), although our study had low power for this test. No SNP predicted metabolic syndrome in any of the three groups (P>0.05).


The significance of racial/ethnic differences in risk allele frequencies merits consideration if genetic discoveries are to have clinical and public health applicability.

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