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From modeling to measurement: Developmental trends in genetic influence on adiposity in childhood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

C.h. Llewellyn, M. Trzaskowski, R. Plomin, J. Wardle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1756-1761
Number of pages6
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2014


King's Authors


Evidence of increasing heritability of BMI over childhood can seem paradoxical given longer exposure to environmental influences. Genomic data were used to provide direct evidence of developmental increases in genetic influence.

BMI standard deviation scores (BMI-SDS) at ages 4 and 10 were calculated for 2,556 twin pairs in the Twins Early Development Study. Twin analyses estimated heritability of BMI-SDS at each age and the longitudinal genetic correlation. One randomly selected twin per pair was genotyped. Genome-wide complex trait analysis (GCTA) determined DNA-based heritability at each age and the longitudinal genomic correlation. Associations with a polygenic obesity risk score (PRS) using 28 obesity-related single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were assessed at each age, with bootstrapping to test the significance of the increase in variance explained.

Twin-estimated heritability increased from age 4 (0.43; 95% CI: 0.35-0.53) to 10 (0.82; 0.74-0.88). GCTA-estimated heritability went from non-significant at 4 (0.20; −0.21 to 0.61) to significant at 10 (0.29; 0.01-0.57). Longitudinal genetic correlations derived from twins (0.58) and GCTA (0.66) were similar. The same PRS explained more variance at 10 than 4 years (R2 Δ:0.024; 0.002-0.078).

GCTA and PRS findings confirm twin-based results suggesting increasing genetic influence on adiposity during childhood despite substantial genetic stability.

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