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Am J Hum Genet. 1991 Dec;49(6):1243-55.

The genetic and environmental sources of body mass index variability: the Muscatine Ponderosity Family Study.

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Department of Epidemiology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor 48109.


The role of genetic and environmental factors in determining the variability in body mass index (BMI; kg/m2) was investigated in 1,302 relatives identified through 284 schoolchildren from Muscatine, IA. BMI levels were first adjusted for variability in age, by gender and by relative type. There was significant familial aggregation of adjusted BMI in the pedigrees, as indicated by inter- and intraclass correlation coefficients significantly different from zero. A mixture of two normal distributions fit the adjusted BMI data better than did a single normal distribution. Genetic and environmental models that could explain both the familial aggregation and the mixture of normal distributions were investigated using complex segregation analysis. There was strong support for a single recessive locus with a major effect that accounted for almost 35% of the adjusted variation in BMI. Polygenic loci accounted for an additional 42% of the variation. Approximately 23% of the adjusted variation was not explained by genetic factors. For spouses living in the same household, their shared environment accounted for 12% of their variation. For siblings living in the same household, their shared environment accounted for 10% of their variation. While shared environments contributed to variation in adjusted BMI, more than 75% of the variation was explained by genetic factors that include a single recessive locus. Approximately 6% of the individuals in the population from which these pedigrees were sampled are predicted to have two copies of the recessive gene, while 37% of the individuals are predicted to have one copy of the gene.

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