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Behav Genet. 1999 May;29(3):145-54.

Evidence for genetic influences on human energy intake: results from a twin study using measured observations.

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  • 1Obesity Research Center, St. Luke's/Roosevelt Hospital Center, Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons, New York, New York 10025, USA.


Human obesity is associated with greater-than-average energy intake, although relatively few studies have tested the heritability of food intake. The present study examined the genetic architecture of measured caloric intake during laboratory test meals in 36 monozygotic and 18 dizygotic twin pairs. A series of analyses tested the hypotheses that (1) there would be a genetic influence on total caloric intake, (2) there would be genes influencing total caloric intake above and beyond those influencing body composition, (3) there would be a phenotypic association between total caloric intake and fat mass above and beyond any genetic influences, and (4) there would be genetic influences on macronutrient intake (i.e., fat, carbohydrate, and protein intake) above and beyond total caloric intake. Results suggested genetic influences on age- and sex-adjusted total caloric intake (24-33% of the variance), although 95% confidence intervals were wide and suggested that "true" heritability estimates might be considerably lower or higher. Caloric intake was influenced by both common and unique environmental factors. Greater-than-average caloric intake was associated with increased adiposity, despite probable genetic influences on both phenotypes. Finally, there was evidence for macronutrient-specific familial influences, although the extent to which they were genetic or environmental in origin could not be teased apart. Results suggest that human obesity may be influenced by behaviors that are themselves genetically regulated. However, further studies are needed to obtain more precise heritability estimates and a better understanding of the conditions under which genetic influences on energy intake emerge.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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