Genetic factors in physical growth and development and their relationship to subsequent health outcomes

Stefan A. Czerwinski, Miryoung Lee, Audrey C. Choh, Keith Wurzbacher, Ellen W. Demerath, Bradford Towne, Roger M. Siervogel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Normal physical growth during childhood is influenced by both genetic and environmental factors. However, few studies have examined whether there are shared genetic effects between aspects of child growth and later health outcomes. In this study, we estimate the influence of genetic factors on growth in stature during childhood and determine whether there are pleiotropic effects of genes influencing both childhood growth and later adult health outcomes using familial data. Serial stature data (i.e., birth through adulthood) from participants in the Fels Longitudinal Study were used to derive stature growth parameters. Adult health outcome data for each participant were available for at least one visit after age 30 years. Maximum likelihood-based variance component methods were used to determine the heritability of each parameter and to examine the relationships between growth parameters and adult health outcomes by estimating genetic correlations between the traits. Heritability estimates for the growth parameters are generally high and statistically significant ranging in magnitude from 0.65-0.98. Heritabilities for adult health outcomes are also significant ranging from 0.31-0.98. Results of the phenotypic correlation analysis show that stature growth parameters are significantly related to several adult health outcomes including stature, weight, BMI, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, percent body fat, fat-free mass, skeletal muscle mass in the arms and legs, and total body bone mass. Results of the genetic correlation analysis reveal some evidence of common genetic pathways underlying certain aspects of growth and adult health outcomes including body composition and blood pressure variables.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)684-691
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Human Biology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2007


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