Twin studies from eight populations show that genetic mechanisms for height, weight and BMI are more variable than researchers previously suspected. The research, published in the International Journal of Obesity, concludes that future association studies for body measures should take these differences into account.
Height, weight and body mass are determined by multiple genetic and environmental factors. Using large population-based samples, Yoon-Mi Hur and colleagues demonstrate that these traits are more diverse in Caucasians than in East Asian adolescents, and that these differences in variability are largely (80-100%) due to genetic contrasts between the two population groups.
The researchers compared sets of twins from four Caucasian countries - Australia, Finland, the Netherlands and the USA; and four East Asian countries - China Japan, South Korea and Taiwan; to find out if there are differences in the total phenotypic variances between these two major populations. In both males and females, Caucasian adolescents were taller, weighed more, and more obese than their East Asian peers suggesting that genetic differences do contributed to differences in variability of height, weight, and BMI between Caucasians and East Asians.
The findings suggest that ethnic group differences in genetic vulnerability to obesity and physical growth should be incorporated in designing intervention and prevention programmes that maximize health outcomes.
Yoon-Mi Hur (Chonnam National University, Gwangju, South Korea)
Abstract available online.
(C) International Journal of Obesity press release.
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