Behavior Genetics

, Volume 45, Issue 4, pp 427–437 | Cite as

Genetic and Environmental Influences on Obesity-Related Phenotypes in Chinese Twins Reared Apart and Together

  • Bin ZhouEmail author
  • Wenjing Gao
  • Jun Lv
  • Canqing Yu
  • Shengfeng Wang
  • Chunxiao Liao
  • Zengchang Pang
  • Liming Cong
  • Zhong Dong
  • Fan Wu
  • Hua Wang
  • Xianping Wu
  • Guohong Jiang
  • Xiaojie Wang
  • Binyou Wang
  • Weihua CaoEmail author
  • Liming LiEmail author
Original Research


The relative importance of genetic and environmental influences on obesity-related phenotypes remains unclear, and few studies have targeted the Chinese population. Here, we used Chinese twins reared apart and together to explore genetic and environmental influences on body mass index (BMI), waist circumference (WC) and waist–height ratio (WHtR), further to differentiate phenotype heritability between different age groups and genders separately and to differentiate influences of rearing environment and correlated environment. Phenotype heritability was calculated using the structural equation model in 11,401 twin pairs aged 25–85 years. BMI (0.70, 95 % confidence interval (CI) 0.66–0.74) of the total population was highly heritable, while WC (0.53, 95 %CI 0.50–0.57) and WHtR (0.48, 95 %CI 0.45–0.51) were moderately heritable. Age and gender stratified analyses found higher heritability in the younger group and males than the older group and females. The correlated environment had a greater influence on the phenotypes than the rearing environment, especially on WC and WHtR, indicating that more correlated environment actions should be taken to prevent the rising trend of abdominal obesity.


Twins Obesity Heritability Environment Adult 



This study was supported by China Medical Board (01-746), National Natural Science Foundation of China (81202264) and the Specific Research Project of Health Public Service, Ministry of Health, China (201002007). The authors wish to thank the graduate students of our research group, especially Ms Biqi Wang, Ms Qingqing Liu, Ms Luanluan Sun, Ms Feng Zhang, Ms Chenxi Qin, and the CDC twin project staff in nine provinces. Besides we also appreciate the help from Mr Gu Zhu, Professor Nancy L. Pedersen and Professor Matthew C. Keller regarding the project design and data analysis.

Conflict of interest

Bin Zhou, Wenjing Gao, Jun Lv, Canqing Yu, Shengfeng Wang, Chunxiao Liao, Zengchang Pang, Liming Cong, Zhong Dong, Fan Wu, Hua Wang, Xianping Wu, Guohong Jiang, Xiaojie Wang, Binyou Wang, Weihua Cao and Liming Li declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

The procedures followed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation (institutional and national) and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2000 and 2008. The study has passed the ethical review of Peking University Biomedical Ethics Committee (IRB00001052-11029). Written informed consent was obtained from all the participants in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bin Zhou
    • 1
    Email author
  • Wenjing Gao
    • 1
  • Jun Lv
    • 1
  • Canqing Yu
    • 1
  • Shengfeng Wang
    • 1
  • Chunxiao Liao
    • 1
  • Zengchang Pang
    • 2
  • Liming Cong
    • 3
  • Zhong Dong
    • 4
  • Fan Wu
    • 5
  • Hua Wang
    • 6
  • Xianping Wu
    • 7
  • Guohong Jiang
    • 8
  • Xiaojie Wang
    • 9
  • Binyou Wang
    • 10
  • Weihua Cao
    • 1
    Email author
  • Liming Li
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Public HealthPeking UniversityBeijingChina
  2. 2.Qingdao Center for Diseases Control and PreventionQingdaoChina
  3. 3.Zhejiang Center for Disease Control and PreventionHangzhouChina
  4. 4.Beijing Center for Disease Control and PreventionBeijingChina
  5. 5.Shanghai Center for Disease Control and PreventionShanghaiChina
  6. 6.Jiangsu Center for Disease Control and PreventionNanjingChina
  7. 7.Sichuan Center for Disease Control and PreventionChengduChina
  8. 8.Tianjin Center for Disease Control and PreventionTianjinChina
  9. 9.Qinghai Center for Disease Control and PreventionXiningChina
  10. 10.Harbin Medical UniversityHarbinChina

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