To study twin resemblance for weight change (delta wt) and to assess the consistency of body mass index (BMI) over 6 years.
6 year follow-up based on identical mailed questionnaires in 1975 (baseline) and in 1981 (follow-up).
5967 same-sexed non-pregnant Finnish twin pairs aged 18-54 in 1975 (1106 male and 862 female monozygotic (MZ) and 2430 male and 1569 female dizygotic (DZ) pairs).
Intra-pair correlations of delta wt and BMI, estimates of genetic and environmental components of variance of delta wt and BMI.
Unadjusted mean delta wt was +2.0 (s.d. = 4.6) kg among MZ and 2.1 (4.9) kg among DZ male individuals. Corresponding values among MZ and DZ female individuals were +1.5 (4.4) kg and +1.7 (4.4) kg, respectively. Age and initial BMI together explained 8.0% of the male and 2.3% of the female phenotypic variance of delta wt. The intraclass correlations for delta wt (adjusted for age and initial BMI) for all pairs were 0.29 and 0.07 for MZ and DZ men and 0.25 and 0.05 for MZ and DZ women, respectively. The BMI of the twins increased slightly during the follow-up compared to the baseline values (23.9 (2.7) for MZ and 24.1 for DZ men and 23.0 (3.3) for MZ and 23.2 (3.42) for DZ women). The intra-class correlations for BMI at baseline (0.69 for MZ and 0.34 for DZ men and 0.67 for MZ and 0.29 for DZ women) were almost identical with the correlations at follow-up (0.67 for MZ and 0.32 for DZ men and 0.69 for MZ and 0.29 for DZ women). The intra-class correlations for both BMI and delta wt were consistently higher among pairs living together than among pairs living apart at baseline and at follow-up in both zygosity groups (MZ and DZ). Among pairs living apart at baseline, the longitudinal model for BMI showed that the correlation between genetic effects at baseline and at follow-up was very high (> 0.9 in all age groups among both genders). The correlations for environmental effects ranged from 0.50 to 0.67 during the follow-up period.
Weight changes in adults over a 6-year period appear to be determined by environmental effects rather than genetic factors. However, the genetic component in BMI is considerable and stable over time. Shared environment is likely to contribute to the resemblance of both delta wt and BMI among adult twin pairs, especially among MZ pairs.