Background: Asthma and obesity are common conditions that are strongly associated. This association might be due to shared genetic or environmental causes.
Objective: We sought to determine whether a shared genetic cause is responsible for the association between asthma and obesity and to estimate the magnitude of shared genetic cause.
Methods: The analyses were performed with 1001 monozygotic and 383 dizygotic same-sex twin pairs within the University of Washington Twin Registry. The presence of asthma was determined by self-report of a physician diagnosis of asthma, and body mass index (BMI) was calculated by using self-reported height and weight. Obesity was defined as a BMI of 30 or greater. The association between asthma and BMI was assessed by means of mixed-effects ordinal regression. Twin correlations examined the association of asthma and obesity. Univariate and bivariate structural equation models estimated the components of variance attributable to genetic and environmental effects.
Results: A strong association between asthma and BMI was identified in the sample population (P < .001). Substantial heritability was detected for asthma (53%) and obesity (77%), which is indicative of additive genetic influences on each disorder. The best-fitting model of shared components of variance indicated that 8% of the genetic component of obesity is shared with asthma.
Conclusion: The covariation between obesity and asthma is predominantly caused by shared genetic risk factors for both conditions.