Behavior Genetics

, Volume 43, Issue 4, pp 340–347 | Cite as

Genetic and Environmental Correlations Between Body Mass Index and Waist Circumference in China: The Qingdao Adolescent Twin Study

  • F. Ning
  • K. Silventoinen
  • Z. C. Pang
  • J. Kaprio
  • S. J. Wang
  • D. Zhang
  • H. P. Duan
  • W. F. Wu
  • Q. Qiao
Original Research


We aimed to analyze how genetic and environmental factors account for variations in body mass index (BMI), waist circumference (WC) and their mutual correlation in Chinese children. We measured BMI and WC in 588 pairs of twins (53 % monozygotic twins) aged 8–17 years and applied structural equation modeling to the data. For the younger children (8–12 years of age), heritability estimates of BMI were 0.56 for boys and 0.69 for girls; for the older children (13–17 years of age), the corresponding figures were 0.64 and 0.71, respectively. We observed moderate heritability estimates in WC: the corresponding figures were 0.24 and 0.56 for the younger children, and 0.27 and 0.33 for the older children, respectively. The heterogeneity test for genetic variance of BMI and WC was statistically significant between the two age groups for both sexes (p < 0.001). The proportions of BMI and WC variations due to shared and non-shared environmental factors remained stable during childhood in both sexes. Bivariate genetic analyses showed that genetic correlations between BMI and WC were strong for the younger children (rg = 0.75 for boys, rg = 0.98 for girls) and the older children (rg = 1.0 for both boys and girls). Both sexes showed moderate non-shared environmental correlations in the two age groups, whereas shared environmental correlations––except among male younger children––were not statistically significant. Genetic factors play an important role in variations in BMI and WC during childhood. Common genetic and non-shared environmental factors explained most of the association between BMI and WC for both boys and girls.


Genetic factors Body mass index Waist circumference Children Twins 



This study was supported by the EFSD/CDS/Lilly Research Fellowship 2009. KS was supported by the Academy of Finland (#266592). FN carried out the data analysis and drafted the manuscript. KS, JK and QQ participated in the concept design and in drafting the manuscript. ZP, SW, DZ, HD and WW contributed to the data collection and approved the final version of the manuscript.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • F. Ning
    • 1
  • K. Silventoinen
    • 1
    • 2
  • Z. C. Pang
    • 3
  • J. Kaprio
    • 1
    • 4
  • S. J. Wang
    • 3
  • D. Zhang
    • 5
  • H. P. Duan
    • 3
  • W. F. Wu
    • 6
  • Q. Qiao
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Public Health, Hjelt InstituteUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  2. 2.Population Research Unit, Department of Social ResearchUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  3. 3.Qingdao Centers for Disease Control and PreventionQingdaoChina
  4. 4.Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse ServicesNational Institute for Health and WelfareHelsinkiFinland
  5. 5.Jiaonan Centers for Disease Control and PreventionQingdaoChina
  6. 6.Qingdao University Medicine CollegeQingdaoChina

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