Heritability of factors of the insulin resistance syndrome in women twins

Genet Epidemiol. 1997;14(3):241-53. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1098-2272(1997)14:3<241::AID-GEPI3>3.0.CO;2-8.


The insulin resistance syndrome (IRS) is characterized by a combination of interrelated coronary heart disease (CHD) risk factors, including low high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) levels, obesity and increases in triglyceride (TG), blood pressure, small low-density lipoprotein particles (LDL), and both fasting and postload plasma insulin and glucose. Using factor analysis, we previously identified 3 uncorrelated factors that explained 66% of the variance among these variables, based on data from women participating in examination 2 of the Kaiser Permanente Women Twins Study in Oakland, CA during 1989-1990. The factors were interpreted as: 1) body mass/fat distribution, 2) insulin/glucose, and 3) lipids: TG, HDL-C, LDL peak particle diameter. In this analysis, heritability of each of the factors was estimated based on data from 140 monozygotic and 96 dizygotic pairs of non-diabetic women twins. Heritability estimates were calculated using the classical approach, the analysis of variance (ANOVA) approach, and the maximum likelihood approach. For the body mass/fat distribution factor heritability estimates suggest moderate genetic influences; 0.61 (P < 0.001), 0.14 (P > 0.05), and 0.71 (P < 0.001), respectively. The insulin/glucose factor appeared to be highly heritable, with estimates of 0.87, 0.92, and 0.57 (all P < 0.001), respectively. The heritability estimates for the lipid factor were moderate and consistent across methods: 0.25 (P < 0.10), 0.32 (P < 0.05), and 0.30 (P < 0.05), respectively. These results are consistent with genetic influences on each of the 3 "factors," and suggest that both genetic and environmental effects are involved in the clustering of IRS risk factors.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Blood Glucose / genetics
  • Body Constitution / genetics
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Coronary Disease / epidemiology
  • Coronary Disease / genetics
  • Diseases in Twins / genetics*
  • Factor Analysis, Statistical
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Humans
  • Insulin / blood
  • Insulin / genetics
  • Insulin Resistance / genetics*
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Lipids / blood
  • Lipids / genetics
  • Middle Aged
  • Regression Analysis
  • Risk Factors
  • Twins, Dizygotic
  • Twins, Monozygotic


  • Blood Glucose
  • Insulin
  • Lipids