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Twin Res Hum Genet. 2007 Oct;10(5):749-56.

Heritability of body mass index: a comparison between the Netherlands and Spain.

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Murcia Twin Registry, School of Psychology, University of Murcia, Spain.


A high body mass index (BMI) is commonly used as an index of overweight and obesity. There is persistent evidence of high heritability for variation in BMI, but the effects of common environment appear inconsistent across different European countries. Our objective was to compare genetic and environmental effects on BMI in a sample of twins from two different European countries with distinct population and cultural backgrounds. We analysed data of adult female twins from the Netherlands Twin Register (222 monozygotic [MZ] and 103 dizygotic [DZ] pairs) and the Murcia Twin Register (Spain; 202 MZ and 235 DZ pairs). BMI was based on self-reported weight and height. Dutch women were taller and heavier, but Spanish women had a significantly higher mean BMI. The age related weight increase was significantly stronger in the Spanish sample. Genetic analyses showed that genetic factors are the main contributors to variation in height, weight, and BMI, within both countries. For height and weight, estimates of genetic variances did not differ, but for height, the estimate for the environmental variance was significantly larger in Spanish women. For BMI, both the genetic and the environmental variance components were larger in Spanish than in Dutch women.

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