Familial aggregation of amount and distribution of subcutaneous fat and their responses to exercise training in the HERITAGE family study

Obes Res. 2000 Mar;8(2):140-50. doi: 10.1038/oby.2000.15.


Objective: Investigate the familial aggregation of amount and distribution of subcutaneous fat and their changes in response to endurance training.

Research methods and procedures: A total of 483 sedentary subjects from 99 nuclear families were recruited, trained for 20 weeks of exercising on cycle ergometers, and measured before and after training for the following indicators of subcutaneous fat and fat distribution: trunk fat (TRUNK = sum of abdominal, subscapular, suprailiac, and midaxillary skinfolds), extremity fat (EXTREM = sum of biceps, triceps, thigh, and calf skinfolds), subcutaneous fat (SF8 = sum of the eight skinfolds), the trunk to extremity skinfolds ratio adjusted for SF8 (TER) and waist girth adjusted for body mass index (WAIST). The familial aggregation of the age- and sex-adjusted baseline phenotypes and their responses to training (delta) after adjustment for the baseline values was investigated using a familial correlation model.

Results: Significant familial aggregation was observed for all the phenotypes measured at baseline and for deltaTRUNK and deltaWAIST. Transmissibility estimates reached about 30% to 35% for TRUNK, EXTREM, and SF8 and 50% for TER and WAIST. The transmissibilities of the response phenotypes were lower, ranging from 0% for deltaWAIST to 21% for deltaTRUNK and the pattern of familial correlations suggested a greater within- than between-generation resemblance in the response.

Discussion: This study suggests that the amount and distribution of subcutaneous fat strongly aggregates in families, whereas the response to exercise training is characterized by a moderate and more complex pattern of familial resemblance. We conclude that familial/genetic factors are more important in determining the amount and distribution of subcutaneous fat than their responses to exercise training.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue*
  • Adult
  • Aging
  • Body Composition / genetics*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Phenotype
  • Physical Endurance*
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Skinfold Thickness