The heritability of HbA1c and fasting blood glucose in different measurement settings

Twin Res Hum Genet. 2008 Dec;11(6):597-602. doi: 10.1375/twin.11.6.597.


In an extended twin study we estimated the heritability of fasting HbA1c and blood glucose levels. Blood glucose was assessed in different settings (at home and in the clinic). We tested whether the genetic factors influencing fasting blood glucose levels overlapped with those influencing HbA1c and whether the same genetic factors were expressed across different settings. Fasting blood glucose was measured at home and during two visits to the clinic in 77 healthy families with same-sex twins and siblings, aged 20 to 45 years. HbA1c was measured during the first clinic visit. A 4-variate genetic structural equation model was used that estimated the heritability of each trait and the genetic correlations among traits. Heritability explained 75% of the variance in HbA1c. The heritability of fasting blood glucose was estimated at 66% at home and lower in the clinic (57% and 38%). Fasting blood glucose levels were significantly correlated across settings (0.34 < r < 0.54), mostly due to a common set of genes that explained between 53% and 95% of these correlations. Correlations between HbA1c and fasting blood glucoses were low (0.11 < r < 0.23) and genetic factors influencing HbA1c and fasting glucose were uncorrelated. These results suggest that in healthy adults the genes influencing HbA1c and fasting blood glucose reflect different aspects of the glucose metabolism. As a consequence these two glycemic parameters can not be used interchangeably in diagnostic procedures or in studies attempting to find genes for diabetes. Both contribute unique (genetic) information.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blood Glucose / analysis
  • Blood Glucose / genetics*
  • Fasting / blood*
  • Female
  • Glycated Hemoglobin A / analysis
  • Glycated Hemoglobin A / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Siblings
  • Twins / genetics*


  • Blood Glucose
  • Glycated Hemoglobin A
  • hemoglobin A1c protein, human