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Am J Clin Nutr. 2017 May 17. pii: ajcn144006. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.116.144006. [Epub ahead of print]

Genetics of serum carotenoid concentrations and their correlation with obesity-related traits in Mexican American children.

Author information

South Texas Diabetes and Obesity Institute, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Edinburg, TX.
Departments of Plant Science and.
Department of Genetics, Texas Biomedical Research Institute, San Antonio, TX.
Departments of Medicine and.
Department of Nutrition, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Kannapolis, NC; and.
Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO.
Pediatrics, University of Texas Health San Antonio, San Antonio, TX.
South Texas Diabetes and Obesity Institute, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Edinburg, TX;
Food Science and
Center for Molecular Immunology and Infectious Diseases, Penn State University, University Park, PA.


Background: Dietary intake of phytonutrients present in fruits and vegetables, such as carotenoids, is associated with a lower risk of obesity and related traits, but the impact of genetic variation on these associations is poorly understood, especially in children.Objective: We estimated common genetic influences on serum carotenoid concentrations and obesity-related traits in Mexican American (MA) children.Design: Obesity-related data were obtained from 670 nondiabetic MA children, aged 6-17 y. Serum α- and β-carotenoid concentrations were measured in ∼570 (α-carotene in 565 and β-carotene in 572) of these children with the use of an ultraperformance liquid chromatography-photodiode array. We determined heritabilities for both carotenoids and examined their genetic relation with 10 obesity-related traits [body mass index (BMI), waist circumference (WC), high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, triglycerides, fat mass (FM), systolic and diastolic blood pressure, fasting insulin and glucose, and homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance] by using family data and a variance components approach. For these analyses, carotenoid values were inverse normalized, and all traits were adjusted for significant covariate effects of age and sex.Results: Carotenoid concentrations were highly heritable and significant [α-carotene: heritability (h2) = 0.81, P = 6.7 × 10-11; β-carotene: h2 = 0.90, P = 3.5 × 10-15]. After adjusting for multiple comparisons, we found significant (P ≤ 0.05) negative phenotypic correlations between carotenoid concentrations and the following traits: BMI, WC, FM, and triglycerides (range: α-carotene = -0.19 to -0.12; β-carotene = -0.24 to -0.13) and positive correlations with HDL cholesterol (α-carotene = 0.17; β-carotene = 0.24). However, when the phenotypic correlations were partitioned into genetic and environmental correlations, we found marginally significant (P = 0.051) genetic correlations only between β-carotene and BMI (-0.27), WC (-0.30), and HDL cholesterol (0.31) after accounting for multiple comparisons. None of the environmental correlations were significant.Conclusions: The findings from this study suggest that the serum carotenoid concentrations were under strong additive genetic influences based on variance components analyses, and that the common genetic factors may influence β-carotene and obesity and lipid traits in MA children.


cardiometabolic traits; childhood obesity; common genetic influences; heritability; α-carotene; β-carotene

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