Increasing heritability of BMI and stronger associations with the FTO gene over childhood

Obesity (Silver Spring). 2008 Dec;16(12):2663-8. doi: 10.1038/oby.2008.434. Epub 2008 Oct 9.


The growing evidence of health risks associated with the rise in childhood obesity adds to the urgency of understanding the determinants of BMI. Twin analyses on repeated assessments of BMI in a longitudinal sample of >7,000 children indicated that the genetic influence on BMI becomes progressively stronger, with heritability increasing from 0.48 at age 4 to 0.78 at age 11. In the same large twin sample, the association between a common variant in the FTO gene and BMI increased in parallel with the rise in heritability, going from R(2) < 0.001 at age 4 to R(2) = 0.01 at age 11. These findings suggest that expression of FTO may become stronger throughout childhood. Increases in heritability may also be due to children increasingly selecting environments correlated with their genetic propensities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Twin Study

MeSH terms

  • Alpha-Ketoglutarate-Dependent Dioxygenase FTO
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Environment
  • Female
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Models, Biological
  • Obesity / genetics*
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Proteins / genetics*
  • Quantitative Trait, Heritable*
  • Twins / genetics
  • United Kingdom


  • Proteins
  • Alpha-Ketoglutarate-Dependent Dioxygenase FTO
  • FTO protein, human