Heritability of leptin levels and the shared genetic effects on body mass index and leptin in adult Finnish twins

Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2001 Jan;25(1):132-7. doi: 10.1038/sj.ijo.0801526.


Objectives: Leptin is involved in the regulation of body weight, but the relative role of genetic and environmental influences on inter-individual variation in leptin levels is unknown.

Design and subjects: To investigate the genetic and environmental contributions to the association of body mass index (BMI) with serum leptin levels, 58 monozygotic (MZ, 27M, 31F), and 74 like-sexed dizygotic (DZ, 32M, 42F) Finnish twin pairs aged 50--76 y were studied.

Measurements: Serum leptin levels, weight, height, hip and waist measurements.

Results: Women had higher mean leptin levels (16.8+/-9.5 ng/ml), and more overall variability in leptin levels than men (6.4+/-3.5 ng/ml; P<0.0001). Leptin levels correlated highly with BMI in men and women. Among women, the MZ and DZ pairwise correlations for leptin were 0.41 (P=0.009) and 0.07 (P=0.32), respectively. Among men the MZ and DZ pairwise correlations for leptin were 0.47 (P=0.006) and 0.23 (P=0.10). Univariate twin analysis indicated that, among women, 34% and, among men, 45% of the variance in leptin can be attributed to additive genetic effects, and the remainder to unique environmental effects. Significant non-additive genetic or shared familial effects could not be demonstrated. A bivariate twin analysis of leptin and BMI indicated that the correlation between additive genetic effects on leptin and BMI was 0.79 (95% CI 0.68--0.86) in women, and 0.68 (0.51--0.80) in men. The correlation between environmental effects on leptin and BMI was 0.77 (95% CI 0.66--0.85) in women, and 0.48 (0.26--0.66) in men.

Conclusion: Leptin levels are moderately heritable in older adults, and a substantial proportion of genetic effects are in common on leptin levels and obesity in both women and men. International Journal of Obesity (2001) 25, 132-137

Publication types

  • Twin Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Body Height
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight / genetics*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Environment
  • Female
  • Finland
  • Humans
  • Leptin / blood*
  • Leptin / genetics*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Genetic
  • Obesity / blood
  • Obesity / genetics*
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Twins, Dizygotic / genetics*
  • Twins, Monozygotic / genetics*


  • Leptin