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Twin Res Hum Genet. 2007 Oct;10(5):703-11.

Heritability of longitudinal measures of body mass index and lipid and lipoprotein levels in aging twins.

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Department of Health Sciences Research, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Rochester Minnesota 55905, USA.


Body-mass index (BMI), total cholesterol (TC), low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), and triglyceride (TG) levels are known to be highly heritable. We evaluated the genetic and environmental relationships of these measures over time in an analysis of twin pairs. Monozygotic (235 pairs) and dizygotic (260 pairs) male twins were participants in the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute Veteran Twin Study, and were followed with three clinical exams from mean age 48 years to mean age 63 years. Structural equation modeling (SEM) with adjustment for APOE genotype (a significant contributor to TC and LDL-C) was used to assess longitudinal patterns of heritability. Results indicated a contribution of genetic factors to BMI, TC, LDL-C, HLD-C, and TG. Modest increases over time were observed in the heritability of BMI (from 0.48 to 0.61), TC (from 0.46 to 0.57), LDL-C (from 0.49 to 0.64), and HDL-C (from 0.50 to 0.62), but this trend was not present for TG. There was a corresponding decrease in shared environmental influences over time for these traits, although shared environment was a significant contributor only for HDL-C. Moreover, we observed that genetic influences for all measures were significantly correlated over time, and we found no evidence of age-specific genetic effects. In summary, longitudinal analyses of twin data indicate that genetic factors do not account for a significant proportion of the variation in age-related changes of BMI or lipid and lipoprotein levels.

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