Does the sex of one's co-twin affect height and BMI in adulthood? A study of dizygotic adult twins from 31 cohorts

Leonie H Bogl, Aline Jelenkovic, Eero Vuoksimaa, Linda Ahrenfeldt, Kirsi H Pietiläinen, Maria A Stazi, Corrado Fagnani, Cristina D'Ippolito, Yoon-Mi Hur, Hoe-Uk Jeong, Judy L Silberg, Lindon J Eaves, Hermine H Maes, Gombojav Bayasgalan, Danshiitsoodol Narandalai, Tessa L Cutler, Christian Kandler, Kerry L Jang, Kaare Christensen, Axel SkyttheKirsten Ohm Kyvik, Wendy Cozen, Amie E Hwang, Thomas M Mack, Catherine A Derom, Robert F Vlietinck, Tracy L Nelson, Keith E Whitfield, Robin P Corley, Brooke M Huibregtse, Tom A McAdams, Thalia C Eley, Alice M Gregory, Robert F Krueger, Matt McGue, Shandell Pahlen, Gonneke Willemsen, Meike Bartels, Zengchang Pang, Qihua Tan, Dongfeng Zhang, Nicholas G Martin, Sarah E Medland, Grant W Montgomery, Jacob V B Hjelmborg, Esther Rebato, Gary E Swan, Ruth Krasnow, Andreas Busjahn, Paul Lichtenstein, Sevgi Y Öncel, Fazil Aliev, Laura A Baker, Catherine Tuvblad, Sisira H Siribaddana, Matthew Hotopf, Athula Sumathipala, Fruhling Rijsdijk, Patrik K E Magnusson, Nancy L Pedersen, Anna K Dahl Aslan, Juan R Ordoñana, Juan F Sánchez-Romera, Lucia Colodro-Conde, Glen E Duncan, Dedra Buchwald, Adam D Tarnoki, David L Tarnoki, Yoshie Yokoyama, John L Hopper, Ruth J F Loos, Dorret I Boomsma, Thorkild I A Sørensen, Karri Silventoinen, Jaakko Kaprio, C.E.M. van Beijsterveldt

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


BACKGROUND: The comparison of traits in twins from opposite-sex (OS) and same-sex (SS) dizygotic twin pairs is considered a proxy measure of prenatal hormone exposure. To examine possible prenatal hormonal influences on anthropometric traits, we compared mean height, body mass index (BMI), and the prevalence of being overweight or obese between men and women from OS and SS dizygotic twin pairs.

METHODS: The data were derived from the COllaborative project of Development of Anthropometrical measures in Twins (CODATwins) database, and included 68,494 SS and 53,808 OS dizygotic twin individuals above the age of 20 years from 31 twin cohorts representing 19 countries. Zygosity was determined by questionnaires or DNA genotyping depending on the study. Multiple regression and logistic regression models adjusted for cohort, age, and birth year with the twin type as a predictor were carried out to compare height and BMI in twins from OS pairs with those from SS pairs and to calculate the adjusted odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals for being overweight or obese.

RESULTS: OS females were, on average, 0.31 cm (95% confidence interval (CI) 0.20, 0.41) taller than SS females. OS males were also, on average, taller than SS males, but this difference was only 0.14 cm (95% CI 0.02, 0.27). Mean BMI and the prevalence of overweight or obesity did not differ between males and females from SS and OS twin pairs. The statistically significant differences between OS and SS twins for height were small and appeared to reflect our large sample size rather than meaningful differences of public health relevance.

CONCLUSIONS: We found no evidence to support the hypothesis that prenatal hormonal exposure or postnatal socialization (i.e., having grown up with a twin of the opposite sex) has a major impact on height and BMI in adulthood.

Original languageEnglish
Article number14
Pages (from-to)14
JournalBiology of sex differences
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017


This study was conducted within the CODATwins project (Academy of Finland #266592). The lead author wishes to thank the Juho Vainio Foundation and the Yrjö Jahnsson Foundation. The Australian Twin Registry is supported by a Centre of Research Excellence (grant ID 1079102) from the National Health and Medical Research Council administered by the University of Melbourne. California Twin Program was supported by The California Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program (7RT-0134H, 8RT-0107H, 6RT-0354H) and the National Institutes of Health (1R01ESO15150-01). The Carolina African American Twin Study of Aging (CAATSA) was funded by a grant from the National Institute on Aging (grant 1RO1-AG13662-01A2) to K. E. Whitfield. Colorado Twin Registry is funded by NIDA funded center grant DA011015, and Longitudinal Twin Study HD10333; Author Huibregtse is supported by 5T32DA017637-11. Danish Twin Registry is supported by the National Program for Research Infrastructure 2007 from the Danish Agency for Science, Technology and Innovation, The Research Council for Health and Disease, the Velux Foundation, and the US National Institute of Health (P01 AG08761). Netherlands Twin Register acknowledges the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) and MagW/ZonMW grants 904-61-090, 985-10-002, 912-10-020, 904-61-193,480-04-004, 463-06-001, 451-04-034, 400-05-717, Addiction-31160008, Middelgroot-911-09-032, and Spi-nozapremie 56-464-14192; VU University’s Institute for Health and Care Research (EMGO+); and the European Research Council (ERC–230374), the Avera Institute, Sioux Falls, South Dakota (USA). Data collection and analyses in Finnish twin cohorts have been supported by ENGAGE–European Network for Genetic and Genomic Epidemiology, FP7-HEALTH-F4-2007, grant agreement number 201413, National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (grants AA-12502, AA-00145, and AA-09203) to R J Rose, the Academy of Finland Center of Excellence in Complex Disease Genetics (grant numbers: 213506, 129680), and the Academy of Finland (grants 100499, 205585, 118555, 141054, 265240, 263278 and 264146 to J Kaprio). K Silventoinen is supported by Osaka University’s International Joint Research Promotion Program. Since its origin the East Flanders Prospective Survey has been partly supported by grants from the Fund of Scientific Research, Flanders and Twins, a non-profit Association for Scientific Research in Multiple Births (Belgium). Waves 1–3 of Genesis 12–19 were funded by the W T Grant Foundation, the University of London Central Research fund and a Medical Research Council Training Fellowship (G81/343) and Career Development Award (G120/635) to Thalia C. Eley. Wave 4 was supported by grants from the Economic and Social Research Council (RES-000-22-2206) and the Institute of Social Psychiatry (06/07–11) to Alice M. Gregory who was also supported at that time by a Leverhulme Research Fellowship (RF/ 2/RFG/2008/0145). Wave 5 was supported by funding to Alice M. Gregory from Goldsmiths, University of London. Anthropometric measurements of the Hungarian twins were supported by Medexpert Ltd., Budapest, Hungary. The Murcia Twin Registry is supported by Fundación Séneca, Regional Agency for Science and Technology, Murcia, Spain (08633/PHCS/08, 15302/PHCS/10 & 19479/PI/14) and Ministry of Science and Innovation Spain (PSI2009-11560 & PSI2014-56680-R). The University of Southern California Twin Study is funded by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (R01 MH58354). South Korea Twin Registry is supported by National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF-371-2011-1 B00047). S.Y. Öncel and F. Aliev are supported by Kırıkkale University Research Grant: KKU, 2009/43 and TUBITAK grant 114C117. Washington State Twin Registry (formerly the University of Washington Twin Registry) was supported in part by grant NIH RC2 HL103416 (D. Buchwald, PI). The West Japan Twins and Higher Order Multiple Births Registry was supported by Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (B) (grant number 15H05105) from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science.

FundersFunder number
Academy of Finland Center of Excellence in Complex Disease Genetics213506, 129680
Avera Institute
California Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program6RT-0354H, 8RT-0107H
Centre of Research ExcellenceID 1079102
Fund of Scientific Research, Flanders and Twins
Institute of Social Psychiatry06/07–11
Kırıkkale University
Medexpert Ltd.
Regional Agency for Science and Technology, Murcia, Spain08633/PHCS/08, 15302/PHCS/10, 19479/PI/14
Research Council for Health and Disease
VU University’s Institute for Health and Care Research
National Institutes of HealthP01 AG08761, 15H05105, 1R01ESO15150-01, RC2 HL103416
National Institute of Mental HealthR01 MH58354
National Institute on Drug AbuseDA011015, T32DA017637, HD10333
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and AlcoholismAA-00145, AA-09203, AA-12502
National Institute on Aging1RO1-AG13662-01A2
William T. Grant Foundation
Fundación Séneca
Velux Fonden
Medical Research CouncilG120/635, G81/343
Economic and Social Research CouncilRES-000-22-2206
Leverhulme TrustRF/ 2/RFG/2008/0145
University of London
European Research CouncilERC–230374
National Health and Medical Research Council
Japan Society for the Promotion of Science
University of Melbourne
Danish Agency for Science and Higher Education
Academy of Finland141054, 264146, 205585, 118555, 263278, 265240, 100499
Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk OnderzoekSpi-nozapremie 56-464-14192, 463-06-001, 904-61-090, 904-61-193,480-04-004, 400-05-717, 451-04-034, 985-10-002, 912-10-020
National Research Foundation of KoreaNRF-371-2011-1 B00047
Khon Kaen University2009/43
Osaka University
Ministerio de Ciencia e InnovaciónPSI2009-11560, PSI2014-56680-R


    • Journal Article

    Cohort Studies

    • Netherlands Twin Register (NTR)


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