Body size in five-year-old twins: Heritability and comparison to singleton standards

G.F. Estourgie-van Burk, M. Bartels, C.E.M. van Beijsterveldt, H.A. Delemarre-van de Waal, D.I. Boomsma

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The aim of this study is to examine causes of individual differences in height, weight and body mass index (BMI) in 5-year-old children registered with the Netherlands Twin Register. In addition, we examine whether the results of twin studies can be expanded to the singleton population by comparing the data from twins to Dutch reference growth data and by looking at the twins' target height, which was derived from parental height. For 2996 5-year-old twin pairs, information on height and weight and on parental height was available. Univariate and bivariate genetic analyses of height and weight and univariate analyses of BMI were conducted. In order to compare the twins to the singleton population, standard deviation scores (SDS) for height, BMI and target height were calculated based on Dutch reference growth charts for the general population from 1997. Genetic influences were an important source of variation in height, weight and BMI and the main source of covariation between height and weight. Additive genetic factors accounted for 69% and 66% of the individual differences in height in boys and girls, respectively. For weight, heritability estimates were 59% in boys and 78% in girls and for BMI 34% and 74%. The influence of common environment on height was 25% and 27%, on weight 24% and 10% and on BMI 44% and 12% in boys and girls. The bivariate model showed a large overlap between the genes influencing height and weight. Genes explain 78% (in boys) and 76% (in girls) of the covariance between weight and height. At the age of 5 years, female twins were as tall as singleton children, while male twins were shorter than singletons. For both boys and girls, however, mean height SDS was 0.6 standard deviation scores below the mean target height. All twins had lower BMI than singletons. Twins grow fairly well compared to singletons, but they grow below their target height. This may be due to the above average height of twin parents.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)646-655
JournalTwin Research and Human Genetics
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2006

Cohort Studies

  • Netherlands Twin Register (NTR)


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