Familial aggregation and heritability of waist-to-hip ratio in adult women: The Iowa Women's Health Study

T. A. Sellers, C. Drinkard, S. S. Rich, J. D. Potter, R. W. Jeffery, C. P. Hong, A. R. Folsom

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32 Scopus citations


The aim of this study was to assess evidence that genetic factors influence body fat distribution. First-degree relatives of 324 cancer-free females in a population-based prospective study of 41,837 women (99% white) between the ages of 55 and 69 at baseline in 1986 were studied. A total of 396 living sisters (mean age 65.7 years) and 446 living daughters (mean age 41.2 years) were identified through a mailed 'family tree' questionnaire sent to each participant. Family members were mailed a questionnaire to obtain self-reported measures of current height and weight. A paper tape measure and written instructions were enclosed to obtain waist and hip circumferences. The age-adjusted mother-daughters correlations for waist-to-hip ratio and body mass index (kg/m2) were 0.19 and 0.23, respectively (P < 0.05 using Fisher's z-transformation). The corresponding sister-sister correlations were 0.23 and 0.19, respectively (P < 0.05). The sister-sister correlations were not significantly different from the mother-daughter correlations. After adjustment for body mass index the mother-daughter correlation for waist-to-hip ratio increased to 0.20 and the sister-sister correlation increased to 0.26. These familial correlations suggest that genes and common environment may contribute 40 to 50% of the total variance of waist-to-hip ratio in white women in the Midwest.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)607-613
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Obesity
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1994


  • BMI
  • Correlation
  • Genetics
  • WHR

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