Heritability of Adult Body Height: A Comparative Study of Twin Cohorts in Eight Countries

Department of Public Health, University of Helsinki, Finland.
Twin Research 11/2003; 6(5):399-408. DOI: 10.1375/136905203770326402
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT A major component of variation in body height is due to genetic differences, but environmental factors have a substantial contributory effect. In this study we aimed to analyse whether the genetic architecture of body height varies between affluent western societies. We analysed twin data from eight countries comprising 30,111 complete twin pairs by using the univariate genetic model of the Mx statistical package. Body height and zygosity were self-reported in seven populations and measured directly in one population. We found that there was substantial variation in mean body height between countries; body height was least in Italy (177 cm in men and 163 cm in women) and greatest in the Netherlands (184 cm and 171 cm, respectively). In men there was no corresponding variation in heritability of body height, heritability estimates ranging from 0.87 to 0.93 in populations under an additive genes/unique environment (AE) model. Among women the heritability estimates were generally lower than among men with greater variation between countries, ranging from 0.68 to 0.84 when an additive genes/shared environment/unique environment (ACE) model was used. In four populations where an AE model fit equally well or better, heritability ranged from 0.89 to 0.93. This difference between the sexes was mainly due to the effect of the shared environmental component of variance, which appears to be more important among women than among men in our study populations. Our results indicate that, in general, there are only minor differences in the genetic architecture of height between affluent Caucasian populations, especially among men.

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    • "indicating the importance of various environmental and genetic factors on both parental and neonatal phenotype. Documented associations between parental and offspring height are stronger in adulthood than at birth, with heritability estimates of around 80% in adulthood for relatively wealthy populations (Silventoinen et al., 2003). Heritability estimates of various measurements including head circumference, height and weight also increase from approximately 6 months of age compared with at birth when they are typically 25–30% (Levine et al., 1987; Demerath et al., 2007; Johnson et al., 2011; Silventoinen et al., 2011; Mook-Kanamori et al., 2012). "
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    ABSTRACT: The patterns of association between maternal or paternal and neonatal phenotype may offer insight into how neonatal characteristics are shaped by evolutionary processes, such as conflicting parental interests in fetal investment and obstetric constraints. Paternal interests are theoretically served by maximizing fetal growth, and maternal interests by managing investment in current and future offspring, but whether paternal and maternal influences act on different components of overall size is unknown. We tested whether parents' prepregnancy height and body mass index (BMI) were related to neonatal anthropometry (birthweight, head circumference, absolute and proportional limb segment and trunk lengths, subcutaneous fat) among 1,041 Australian neonates using stepwise linear regression. Maternal and paternal height and maternal BMI were associated with birthweight. Paternal height related to offspring forearm and lower leg lengths, maternal height and BMI to neonatal head circumference, and maternal BMI to offspring adiposity. Principal components analysis identified three components of variability reflecting neonatal “head and trunk skeletal size,” “adiposity,” and “limb lengths.” Regression analyses of the component scores supported the associations of head and trunk size or adiposity with maternal anthropometry, and limb lengths with paternal anthropometry. Our results suggest that while neonatal fatness reflects environmental conditions (maternal physiology), head circumference and limb and trunk lengths show differing associations with parental anthropometry. These patterns may reflect genetics, parental imprinting and environmental influences in a manner consistent with parental conflicts of interest. Paternal height may relate to neonatal limb length as a means of increasing fetal growth without exacerbating the risk of obstetric complications.
    American Journal of Physical Anthropology 12/2014; Early view(4). DOI:10.1002/ajpa.22680 · 2.51 Impact Factor
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    • "This leads, in part, to an important misunderstanding about what heritability means for a single individual. For example, if we use the results we have for height, we can say that heritability estimates for height are around 80% (Silventoinen et al., 2003). However, this does not mean that 80% of one individual's height is explained by genes they inherited from their parents, and that the remaining 20% of their height is due to environments like their diet. "
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    ABSTRACT: Twin and family studies have shown that most traits are at least moderately heritable. But what are the implications of finding genetic influence for the design of intervention and prevention programs? For complex traits, heritability does not mean immutability, and research has shown that genetic influences can change with age, context, and in response to behavioral and drug interventions. The most significant implications for intervention will come when we move from observational genetics to investigating dynamic genetics, including genetically sensitive interventions. Future interventions should be designed to overcome genetic risk and draw upon genetic strengths by changing the environment.
    Frontiers in Genetics 01/2014; 5:6. DOI:10.3389/fgene.2014.00006
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    • "These findings indicate that GCTA-based heritability includes the additive effects of many common SNPs that individually are too small to be statistically significant in a GWA study. However, the GCTA-based heritability estimate is substantially lower than the results from twin studies, which have reported heritabilities of around 70%-90% for height (e.g., Silventoinen et al., 2003). "
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    ABSTRACT: The genetic effects on individual differences in reading development were examined using genome-wide complex trait analysis (GCTA) in a twin sample. In unrelated individuals (one twin per pair, n = 2,942), the GCTA-based heritability of reading fluency was ~20%-29% at ages 7 and 12. GCTA bivariate results showed that the phenotypic stability of reading fluency from 7 to 12 years (r = 0.69) is largely driven by genetic stability (genetic r = 0.69). Genetic effects on print exposure at age 12 were moderate (~26%) and correlated with those influencing reading fluency at 12 (genetic r = 0.89), indicative of a gene-environment correlation. These findings were largely consistent with quantitative genetic twin analyses that used both twins in each pair (n = 1,066-1,409).
    Child Development 01/2014; 85(3). DOI:10.1111/cdev.12207 · 4.92 Impact Factor
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