Familial correlation of dietary intakes among postmenopausal women

Celine M. Vachon, Thomas A. Sellers, Lawrence H. Kushi, Aaron R. Folsom

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13 Scopus citations


A positive family history is a risk for many chronic diseases, including most cancers, coronary heart disease, and diabetes. Since diet is also associated with most chronic diseases, one possible explanation for non- Mendelian familial clustering is shared eating habits. Food frequency data were obtained on 3,515 sisters in the Iowa Women's Health Study, a prospective cohort of postmenopausal women. Intraclass correlations between sisters were computed on a range of energy-adjusted nutrients to determine whether dietary intakes were more similar among siblings than among unrelated individuals. Two methods were used to calculate correlations: analysis of variance modeling and weighted sibling correlations. F-tests and randomization tests were used to determine statistical significance. The intraclass correlations for all of the nutrients examined were statistically significantly greater than the hypothesized value of zero (P < 0.05). Representative correlations include dietary fiber (0.15), animal fat (0.12), vegetable fat (0.13), calcium (0.14), iron (0.04), cholesterol (0.08), sodium (0.10), vitamin D (0.16), and total energy intake (0.11). When corrected for measurement error, the magnitude of these correlations increased, on average 62%. Although modest in magnitude, these correlations may be high enough to influence familial clustering of complex diseases that are attributed, in part, to diet.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)553-563
Number of pages11
JournalGenetic epidemiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1998


  • Diet
  • Familial aggregation
  • Intraclass correlation


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