Heritability of body composition measured by DXA in the diabetes heart study

Obes Res. 2005 Feb;13(2):312-9. doi: 10.1038/oby.2005.42.


Objective: The purpose of this study was to investigate the heritability of body composition measured by DXA in the Diabetes Heart Study (DHS).

Research methods and procedures: Participants were 292 women and 262 men (age, 38 to 86 years; BMI, 17 to 57 kg/m(2)) from 244 families. There were 492 white and 49 African-American sibling pairs. DXA measurements of percentage fat mass (FM), whole body FM, and lean mass (LM), as well as regional measurements of trunk fat mass (TFM) and appendicular lean mass (ALM), were obtained. Heritability of FM, LM, and BMI were estimated using Sequential Oligogenic Linkage Analysis Routines.

Results: After adjusting for age, gender, ethnicity, and height, the heritability estimates of various compositional attributes were %FM = 0.64, whole body FM = 0.71, TFM = 0.63, whole body LM = 0.60, ALM = 0.66, and BMI = 0.64 (all p < 0.0001). Additional adjustment for diabetes status, smoking, dietary intake, and physical activity resulted in only minor changes in the heritability estimates (h(2) = 0.63 to 0.72, all p < 0.0001). Furthermore, heritability of TFM after additional adjustment for whole body FM was significant (h(2) = 0.55, p < 0.0001), and heritability of ALM after additional adjustment for whole body LM was also significant (h(2) = 0.51, p < 0.0001).

Discussion: These data suggest that FM and LM measured by DXA are highly heritable and can be effectively used in designing linkage studies to locate genes governing body composition. In addition, regional distribution of FM and LM may be genetically determined.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Absorptiometry, Photon*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Body Composition / genetics*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / complications
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / genetics*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / complications
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / genetics*
  • Diet
  • Energy Intake
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Smoking