Sex Differences in Genetic Variation in Weight: a Longitudinal Study of Body Mass Index in Adolescent Twins
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Genes that influence a phenotype earlier in life may differ from those influencing the same phenotype later, particularly during significant development periods such as puberty, when it is known that new genetic and environmental influences may become important. In the present study, body mass index (BMI) data were collected from 470 monozygotic twin pairs and 673 dizygotic twin pairs longitudinally at ages 12, 14 and 16, roughly straddling puberty. In order to examine whether there are qualitative and quantitative differences in genetic and environmental influences affecting BMI in males and females, during development, a general sex-limitation simplex model (which represents the longitudinal time series of the data) was fitted to the repeated measurements of BMI. The ADE simplex model provided the best fit to the adolescent data, with disparity in the magnitude of additive genetic influences between sexes, but no differences in the non-additive genetic (epistasis or dominance) or environmental influences. Results found may reflect many genetic and environmental influences during puberty, including the possible complex interaction between genes involved in the biological mechanism of weight regulation and the development of likely peer pressured activities such as severe exercise and diet regimes. Although, over 1,000 pairs of twins were used, this study still lacked the power to properly discriminate between additive and non-additive genetic variance.