Both genetic and environmental factors are involved in the etiology of obesity and the associated lipid disturbances. We determined whether acquired obesity is associated with changes in global serum lipid profiles independent of genetic factors in young adult monozygotic (MZ) twins. 14 healthy MZ pairs discordant for obesity (10 to 25 kg weight difference) and ten weight concordant control pairs aged 24-27 years were identified from a large population-based study. Insulin sensitivity was assessed by the euglycemic clamp technique, and body composition by DEXA (% body fat) and by MRI (subcutaneous and intra-abdominal fat). Global characterization of lipid molecular species in serum was performed by a lipidomics strategy using liquid chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry. Obesity, independent of genetic influences, was primarily related to increases in lysophosphatidylcholines, lipids found in proinflammatory and proatherogenic conditions and to decreases in ether phospholipids, which are known to have antioxidant properties. These lipid changes were associated with insulin resistance, a pathogonomic characteristic of acquired obesity in these young adult twins. Our results show that obesity, already in its early stages and independent of genetic influences, is associated with deleterious alterations in the lipid metabolism known to facilitate atherogenesis, inflammation and insulin resistance.
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An inverse association between height and risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) is well demonstrated, but it is not known whether this association is because of genetic factors, socioeconomic background, or other environmental factors. Four population-based twin cohorts with register-based follow-up data on CHD mortality from Denmark (1966-1996), Finland (1975-2001), and Sweden (1963-2001 and 1972-2001) were used to investigate this question; response rates varied between 65% and 86%. Together, the cohorts included 74,704 twin individuals (35,042 complete twin pairs) with 5,943 CHD deaths during 1.99 million person-years of follow-up. Cox and conditional logistic regression models were used. Per 1-standard deviation decrease in height, height was inversely associated with CHD mortality in men (hazard ratio = 1.08, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.04, 1.12) and in women (hazard ratio = 1.06, 95% CI: 1.01, 1.10). A twin who had died from CHD was on average shorter than the co-twin within monozygotic pairs (odds ratio = 1.27, 95% CI: 1.12, 1.44, with no sex difference), whereas a weaker association was found within dizygotic pairs in men (odds ratio = 1.01, 95% CI: 0.91, 1.13) and in women (odds ratio = 1.14, 95% CI: 1.01, 1.28). The inverse association between height and CHD mortality found within monozygotic discordant twin pairs suggests that this association is because of environmental factors that directly affect height and CHD risk.
It has been suggested that certain health behaviours, such as smoking, may operate as mediators of the well-established inverse association between IQ and mortality risk. Previous research may be afflicted by unadjusted confounding by socioeconomic or psychosocial factors. Twin designs offer a unique possibility to take genetic and shared environmental factors into account. The aim of the present national twin study was to determine the interrelations between IQ at age 18, childhood and attained social factors and smoking status in young adulthood and mid-life. We studied the association between IQ at age 18 and smoking in later life in a population of 11 589 male Swedish twins. IQ was measured at military conscription, and data on smoking and zygosity was obtained from the Swedish Twin Register. Information on social factors was extracted from censuses. Data on smoking was self-reported by the twins at the age of 22-47 years. Logistic regression models estimated with generalised estimating equations were used to explore possible associations between IQ and smoking among the twins as individuals as well as between-and within twin-pairs. A strong inverse association between IQ and smoking status emerged in unmatched analyses over the entire range of IQ distribution. In within-pair and between-pair analyses it transpired that shared environmental factors explained most of the inverse IQ-smoking relationship. In addition, these analyses indicated that non-shared and genetic factors contributed only slightly (and non-significantly) to the IQ-smoking association. Analysis of twin pairs discordant for IQ and smoking status displayed no evidence that non-shared factors contribute substantially to the association. The question of which shared environmental factors might explain the IQ-smoking association is an intriguing one for future research.
Assortative mating by body height and weight is well established in various populations, but its causal mechanisms remain poorly understood. We analyzed the effect of phenotypic assortment and social homogamy on spousal correlations for body height and body mass index (BMI, kg/m(2)). Our data derived from a questionnaire administered to the adult Finnish Twin Cohort in 1990 (response rate 77%) yielding results from 922 monozygotic and 1697 dizygotic adult twin pairs who reported information about their body height and weight and that of their spouses. Assortative mating was evident for body height and BMI. For body height, the effects of social homogamy (0.24 in men and 0.29 in women) and phenotypic assortment (0.27 and 0.28, respectively) were about the same. For BMI, the effect of social homogamy was stronger (0.31 in men and 0.28 in women) than the effect of phenotypic assortment (0.13 in both men and women). When assortative mating was taken into account, shared environmental factors had no effect on phenotypic variation in body height or BMI. Our results show that assortative mating needs to be considered in population genetic studies of body height and weight.
We explored correlates of the Eating Disorder Inventory subscales Body Dissatisfaction (BD) and Drive for Thinness (DT) and genetic and environmental influences on these traits.
In a population-based sample of 4,667 Finnish twins aged 22-27 years, we conducted twin modeling to explore genetic and environmental contributions to body dissatisfaction and drive for thinness. Logistic regression was used for the correlational analysis.
Various eating and body size-related factors and psychosomatic symptoms were significantly associated with high body dissatisfaction and drive for thinness in both genders. In women, early puberty onset, early initiation of sexual activity, and multiple sex partners were statistically significant risk factors of body dissatisfaction. In gender-specific univariate twin models, additive genes accounted for 59.4% (95% confidence interval [CI] = 53.2-64.7%) of the variance in body dissatisfaction and for 51.0% (95% CI = 43.7-57.5%) of the variance in drive for thinness among females, but for none of the variance among males.
There are very distinct gender differences in the heritability patterns of body dissatisfaction and drive for thinness in young adults.
In older adults, mobility limitations often coexist with overweight or obesity, suggesting that similar factors may underlie both traits. This study examined the extent to which genetic and environmental influences explain the association between adiposity and mobility in older women. Body fat percentage (bioimpedance test), walking speed over 10 m, and distance walked in a 6-min test were evaluated in 92 monozygotic (MZ) and 104 dizygotic (DZ) pairs of twin sisters reared together, aged 63-76 years. Genetic and environmental influences on each trait were estimated using age-adjusted multivariate genetic modeling. The analyses showed that the means (and s.d.) for body fat percentage, walking speed, and walking endurance were 33.2+/-7.3%, 1.7+/-0.3 m/s and 529.7+/-75.4 m, respectively. The phenotypic correlation between adiposity and walking speed was -0.32 and between adiposity and endurance it was -0.33. Genetic influences explained 80% of the association between adiposity and speed, and 65% of adiposity and walking endurance. Cross-trait genetic influences accounted for 12% of the variability in adiposity, 56% in walking speed, and 34% in endurance. Trait-specific genetic influences were also detected for adiposity (54%) and walking endurance (13%), but not speed. In conclusion, among community-living older women, an inverse association was found between adiposity and mobility that was mostly due to the effect of shared genes. This result suggests that the identification of genetic variants for body fat metabolism may also provide understanding of the development of mobility limitations in older women.
The joint effects of cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) and body composition on metabolic health are not well known.
To examine the associations of CRF, fat-free mass index (FFMI), and fat mass index (FMI) with metabolic health in individual twins and controlling for genetic and shared environmental effects by studying monozygotic intrapair differences.
Two cross-sectional samples of healthy adult monozygotic and dizygotic twins were drawn from population-based Danish and Finnish national twin registries (n = 996 and n = 309).
CRF was defined as VO2max divided by fat-free mass. Insulin sensitivity and acute insulin response indices were derived from an oral glucose tolerance test. A continuous metabolic syndrome score was calculated. Visceral and liver fat were measured in the Finnish sample. Associations were analyzed separately in both cohorts with multivariate linear regression and aggregated with meta-analytic methods.
Insulin sensitivity, acute insulin response, metabolic syndrome score, visceral, and liver fat amount had strong and statistically significant associations with FMI (
0.53 to 0.79), whereas their associations with CRF and FFMI were at most weak (
0.02 to 0.15). The results of the monozygotic intrapair differences analysis showed the same pattern.
Although FMI is strongly associated with worsening of metabolic health traits, even after controlling for genetic and shared environmental factors, there was little evidence for the effects of CRF or FFMI on metabolic health. This suggests that changing FMI rather than CRF or FFMI may affect metabolic health irrespective of genetic or early environmental determinants.
In contrast to many phenotypes that have been studied using twin designs, substance use shows considerable evidence of environmental influence. Accordingly, specifying the relevant environments and understanding the nature of their effects is an important research priority. Twin studies also have demonstrated that the importance of genetic and environmental influences varies across development for a variety of behavioral outcomes, including substance use. Here, we report analyses exploring moderating effects associated with parenting and peer characteristics on adolescent smoking and drinking, measured at ages 14 and 17. We find significant evidence of moderating effects associated with two dimensions of parenting (parental monitoring and time spent in activities with parents) on adolescent smoking, measured at two time points across development, but no moderating effects on adolescent drinking. Genetic influences on smoking increased, and common environmental effects decreased, as adolescents reported less parental monitoring and spending more time with their parents. Conversely, we find evidence that adolescent drinking is more strongly influenced by peer characteristics. The importance of genetic predispositions was increased among adolescents who reported more friends who used alcohol. These analyses illustrate the importance of incorporating measured aspects of the environment into genetically informative twin models to begin to understand how specific environments are related to various outcomes. Furthermore, they illustrate the importance of using a developmental perspective to understand how specific influences may vary across different ages, and across different phenotypes.
The role of co-twin dependence (twins' closeness or reliance on the co-twin) was examined as a moderator of genetic and environmental influences on alcohol use in adolescence and early adulthood in a large longitudinal population-based study of Finnish twins (FinnTwin16). The associations between co-twin dependence and alcohol use were studied first at an individual level in adolescence (n = 3362) and early adulthood (n = 2912). Then, maximum likelihood models were fit to the two waves of data from same-sex twin pairs to assess the differences and changes in genetic and environmental influences on alcohol use (abstinence, drinking frequency, intoxication frequency); N = 1342 pairs in adolescence, and N = 1078 pairs in early adulthood. Overall, no significant associations were found between co-twin dependence and individual alcohol use. However, co-twin dependence importantly modulated genetic effects on drinking habits, especially in adolescence, but also in early adulthood. Co-twin-dependent twins reported greater similarity in their alcohol-related behavior across all alcohol-use measures at both time points, and the role of genes and environments varied according to co-twin dependence. Shared environmental factors explained most of the variation in drinking among co-twin-dependent twins in adolescence and contributed to drinking to intoxication during early adulthood. In contrast, among co-twin-independent twin pairs, genetic variance contributed significantly to all alcohol-use measures at both time-points. An interdependent sibling relationship is an important modifier of drinking habits, and it appears to reduce the impact of inherited liabilities on alcohol-related behavior especially in adolescence.
Early maturation, indexed by pubertal development (PD), has been associated with earlier initiation and greater frequency of adolescent substance use, but this relationship may be biased by confounding factors and effects that change across development. Using a population-based Finnish twin sample (N = 3,632 individuals), we conducted twin modeling and multilevel structural equation modeling of the relationship between PD and substance use at ages 12-22. Shared environmental factors contributed to early PD and heavier substance use for females. Biological father absence was associated with early PD for boys but not girls, and did not account for the relationship between PD and substance use. The association between early PD and heavier substance use was partially due to between-family confounds, although early PD appeared to qualitatively alter long-term trajectories for some substances (nicotine), but not others (alcohol). Mediation by peer and parental factors did not explain this relationship within families. However, higher peer substance use and lower parental monitoring were themselves associated with heavier substance use, strengthening the existing evidence for these factors as targets for prevention/intervention efforts. Early maturation was not supported as a robust determinant of alcohol use trajectories in adolescence and young adulthood, but may require longer term follow-up. Subtle effects of early PD on nicotine and illicit drug use trajectories throughout adolescence and adulthood merit further investigation.
The consequences of heavy alcohol use remain a serious public health problem. Consistent evidence has demonstrated that both genetic and social influences contribute to alcohol use. Research on gene-environment interaction (GxE) has also demonstrated that these social and genetic influences do not act independently. Instead, certain environmental contexts may limit or exacerbate an underlying genetic predisposition. However, much of the work on GxE and alcohol use has focused on adolescence and less is known about the important environmental contexts in young adulthood. Using data from the young adult wave of the Finnish Twin Study, FinnTwin12 (N?=?3402), we used biometric twin modeling to test whether education moderated genetic risk for alcohol use as assessed by drinking frequency and intoxication frequency. Education is important because it offers greater access to personal resources and helps determine one's position in the broader stratification system. Results from the twin models show that education did not moderate genetic variance components and that genetic risk was constant across levels of education. Instead, education moderated environmental variance so that under conditions of low education, environmental influences explained more of the variation in alcohol use outcomes. The implications and limitations of these results are discussed.
Disparities in body mass index (BMI) between persons with different educational levels in Western countries are well documented, but the background of these education-associated disparities remains poorly understood.
The objective was to examine the influence of environmental and genetic factors on education-associated disparities in self-reported BMI and weight change.
Longitudinal postal surveys were performed in 1975, 1981, and 1990. The data were analyzed by using multivariate genetic models for twin data. The data derived from the Finnish Twin Cohort included 2482 monozygotic and 5113 dizygotic same-sex male and female twin pairs born between 1915 and 1957.
Education-associated differences in BMI and in weight change were clear in 1975 and 1981, respectively, whereas no differences were seen in weight change between 1981 and 1990 when age and baseline BMI were adjusted for. The trait correlation between baseline BMI and educational attainment (-0.15 in men and women) was mainly due to correlations between additive genetic factors that contributed to BMI and education in men (-0.20; 95% CI: -0.25, -0.14) and women (-0.32; 95% CI: -0.40, -0.25) when adjusted for age. Among women, a weaker positive correlation was found for the unshared environmental effects contributing to the 2 traits (0.06; 95% CI: 0.02, 0.12). The same factors that affected the association between education and BMI in 1975 largely explained the association between education and weight change in 1981.
The results suggest the possibility that common genetic factors affect educational attainment and body weight, which contribute to education-associated disparities in BMI in adulthood.
Different approaches are being taken to clarify the role of various factors in the development of physical activity behaviors. Genetic studies are a new area of physical activity research and also the motives for physical activity have been widely studied. The purpose of this paper is to review the findings emerging from the longitudinal genetic studies on leisure-time physical activity and to evaluate the associations between motivational factors and leisure-time physical activity. The focus is to review recent findings of longitudinal Finnish twin studies. The results of the latest longitudinal Finnish twin studies point to the existence of age-specific genetic and environmental influences on leisure-time physical activity. Variations in environmental factors seem to explain the observed deterioration in leisure-time physical activity levels. A decline in genetic influences is seen first from adolescence to young adulthood and again from the age of thirty to the mid-thirties. In the Finnish twin participants, mastery, physical fitness, and psychological state were the major motivation factors associated with consistent leisure-time physical activity behavior. The results also indicate that intrinsic motivation factors may be important for engagement in leisure-time physical activity.
It has been suggested that high fish consumption improves mental well-being. The aim of this study was to assess whether high fish consumption or omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) intake was associated with reduced self-reported psychological distress.
We used three cross-sectional data sets, the nationwide Health 2000 Survey (n = 5840), the Fishermen Study on Finnish fishermen and their family members (n = 1282) and the Finntwin16 Study on young adults (n = 4986). Data were based on self-administered questionnaires, interviews, health examinations and blood samples. Psychological distress was measured using the 12-item and 21-item General Health Questionnaires (GHQs). Fish consumption was measured by a food frequency questionnaire (FFQ, g/day) and independent frequency questions (times/month). Dietary intake (g/day) and serum concentrations (% from fatty acids) of PUFAs were determined. Relationships were analysed using regression analysis.
Regardless of the measure, fish consumption and omega-3 PUFA dietary intake were not associated with distress in any of the data sets. In contrast to the hypothesis, high serum docosahexaenoic acid was associated with high distress in the Fisherman Study men. Some non-linear associations were detected between serum omega-3 PUFAs or fish consumption (times/month) and distress. In the Fishermen Study, the associations were modified by alcohol consumption, smoking and physical activity.
Our results do not support the hypothesis that fish consumption or omega-3 PUFA intake are associated with reduced psychological distress in the general population or in a population with high fish consumption.
We use data from a population-based twin study to examine the association between characteristics of the friendship group and adolescents' own alcohol use at age 14, with focus on gender differences, both with respect to the adolescent's own gender and the gender composition of his/her friendship group.
(1) We conducted analyses on the full epidemiological sample of individuals to determine the magnitude of association between friendship characteristics and alcohol use, and to test for interaction with gender and gender of friends. (2) We used the twin structure of the dataset to study the extent to which similarity in drinking behaviors between adolescents and their friends was due to shared genetic and/or environmental pathways.
Friends' drinking, smoking, and delinquency were more strongly related to alcohol use in girls, compared to boys, and in adolescents with opposite-sex friends, compared to adolescents with only same-sex friends. Friends' alcohol use showed modest evidence of genetic influence in girls, suggesting peer selection; however, there was no evidence of genetic influence on friends' alcohol use in boys. The correlation between adolescent and friend drinking was largely attributable to shared environmental effects across genders.
Gender and gender of friends moderate the associations between friends' behavior and adolescents' alcohol use, with evidence that girls, and those with opposite-sex friends, may be more susceptible to friends' influence. Genetically informative analyses suggest that similarity in alcohol use between adolescents and their friends is mediated, at least partially, through environmental pathways.
Few twin studies have examined nutrition-related phenotypes among children, and none has investigated energy and macronutrient intakes.
The objective was to quantify genetic and environmental influences on variations in energy and macronutrient intakes among children aged 9 years.
We conducted a nutrition study among children participating in the Quebec Newborn Twin Study, a population-based birth cohort of twins. We derived dietary data from two multiple-pass 24-hour dietary recalls with a parent and his or her child. The analysis employed a classic twin study design and used data from 379 twin pairs.
Univariate analyses indicate that heritability for mean daily energy (kcal) and macronutrient (g) intakes was moderate, ranging from 0.34 (95% CI: 0.22, 0.46) to 0.42 (0.31, 0.53). Genetic effects also accounted for 0.28 (0.16, 0.40) of the variance in percent of energy from lipids, while only environmental (shared and unique) effects accounted for the variance in percent of energy from proteins and carbohydrates. The shared environment did not contribute to variations in daily intakes for most of the nutritional variables under study. Multivariate analyses suggest the presence of macronutrient-specific genetic influences for lipids and carbohydrates, estimated at 0.12 (0.04, 0.19) and 0.20 (0.11, 0.29) respectively.
The unique environment (i.e., not shared by family members) has the largest influence on variances in daily energy and macronutrient intakes in 9-year-old children. This finding underscores the need to take obesogenic environments into account when planning dietary interventions for younger populations.
The aim of the present study was to examine the contribution of genetic and environmental factors to depressive symptoms among older women. The participants were 102 monozygotic and 115 dizygotic female twin pairs aged 64 to 76 years. Depressive symptoms were assessed by the Center for the Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale. The contribution of genetic and environmental effects was estimated for the constructed depressiveness factor and for the subscales which were depressed mood, psychomotor retardation, lack of wellbeing and interpersonal difficulties. Of the variance in depressiveness, shared environmental influences accounted for 39% and nonshared environmental influences 61%. For the subscales, 24% to 62% of the variance was explained by individual, and 13% to 23% by shared, environmental factors. Lack of wellbeing had its own moderate additive genetic effect explaining 30% of the variance. This study showed that in older women predominantly environmental factors underlay individual differences in depressiveness; however, the factors varied to some extent between dimensions measured by the subscales.
From the Georgia Prevention Institution, Department of Population Health Sciences, Augusta University (Y.H., X.W., S.S., X.W.); Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (M.O., J.K.) and Department of Public Health (P.S., L.M., J.K.), University of Helsinki; The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's Framingham Heart Study, MA (T.H., D.L.); The Population Sciences Branch, Division of Intramural Research, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, Bethesda, MD (T.H., D.L.); The Mississippi Center for Clinical and Translational Research (CCTR), The University of Mississippi Medical Center (J.W.); and Department of Epidemiology, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, the Netherlands (H.S.).
Recently, 2 transcriptome-wide studies identified 40 genes that were differentially expressed in relation to blood pressure. However, to what extent these BP-related gene expression signatures and their associations with BP are driven by genetic or environmental factors has not been investigated. In this study of 391 twins (193 twin pairs and 5 singletons; age 55-69 years; 40% male; 57% monozygous) recruited from the Finnish Twin Cohort, transcriptome-wide data on peripheral leukocytes were obtained using the Illumina HT12 V4 array. Our transcriptome-wide analysis identified 1 gene (MOK [MAPK/MAK/MRK overlapping kinase], P=7.16×10-8) with its expression levels associated with systolic BP at the cutoff of false-discovery rate
We analysed genetic and environmental influences on self-esteem and its stability in adolescence.
Finnish twins born in 1983-1987 were assessed by questionnaire at ages 14 (n = 4132 twin individuals) and 17 years (n = 3841 twin individuals). Self-esteem was measured using the Rosenberg global self-esteem scale and analyzed using quantitative genetic methods for twin data in the Mx statistical package.
The heritability of self-esteem was 0.62 [95% confidence interval (CI) 0.56-0.68] in 14-year-old boys and 0.40 (95% CI 0.26-0.54) in 14-year-old girls, while the corresponding estimates at age 17 were 0.48 (95% CI 0.39-0.56) and 0.29 (95% CI 0.11-0.45). Rosenberg self-esteem scores at ages 14 and 17 were modestly correlated (r = 0.44 in boys, r = 0.46 in girls). In boys, the correlation was mainly (82%) due to genetic factors, with residual co-variation due to unique environment. In girls, genetic (31%) and common environmental (61%) factors largely explained the correlation.
In adolescence, self-esteem seems to be differently regulated in boys versus girls. A key challenge for future research is to identify environmental influences contributing to self-esteem during adolescence and determine how these factors interact with genetic influences.
We analyzed genetic and environmental determinants of self-rated health and its change from adolescence to early adulthood. Questionnaires were mailed to Finnish twins born 1975-1979 at ages 16, 17, 18 1/2 and, on average, 25 years of age (N=2465 complete twin pairs). The data were analyzed using quantitative genetic methods for twin data by the Mx statistical package. Heritability of self-rated health was greatest at age 16 (63%, 95% confidence intervals (CI) 56-67%, men and women together) and declined steadily to age 25 (33%, 95% CI 25-41%). The residual variation was due to unshared environments. Health ratings at different ages were modestly correlated (r=0.33-0.61). These correlations were mainly due to genetic factors, but unshared environment also contributed to them. An important challenge for further research is to identify environmental influences contributing to self-rated health independently of, or in interaction with, genetic factors.