Genetic and Environmental Influences of Dietary Indices in a UK Female Twin Cohort

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A healthy diet is associated with the improvement or maintenance of health parameters, and several indices have been proposed to assess diet quality comprehensively. Twin studies have found that some specific foods, nutrients and food patterns have a heritable component; however, the heritability of overall dietary intake has not yet been estimated. Here, we compute heritability estimates of the nine most common dietary indices utilized in nutritional epidemiology. We analyzed 2590 female twins from TwinsUK (653 monozygotic [MZ] and 642 dizygotic [DZ] pairs) who completed a 131-item food frequency questionnaire (FFQ). Heritability estimates were computed using structural equation models (SEM) adjusting for body mass index (BMI), smoking status, Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD), physical activity, menopausal status, energy and alcohol intake. The AE model was the best-fitting model for most of the analyzed dietary scores (seven out of nine), with heritability estimates ranging from 10.1% (95% CI [.02,.18]) for the Dietary Reference Values (DRV) to 42.7% (95% CI [.36,.49]) for the Alternative Healthy Eating Index (A-HEI). The ACE model was the best-fitting model for the Healthy Diet Indicator (HDI) and Healthy Eating Index 2010 (HEI-2010) with heritability estimates of 5.4% (95% CI [-.17,.28]) and 25.4% (95% CI [.05,.46]), respectively. Here, we find that all analyzed dietary indices have a heritable component, suggesting that there is a genetic predisposition regulating what you eat. Future studies should explore genes underlying dietary indices to further understand the genetic disposition toward diet-related health parameters.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)330-337
Number of pages8
JournalTwins Research and Human Genetics
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


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