Cross-trait familial resemblance for body fat and blood lipids: Familial correlations in the Quebec Family Study

L. Perusse, T. Rice, J. P. Despres, D. C. Rao, C. Bouchard

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28 Scopus citations


In an attempt to better understand the genetic basis of the metabolic syndrome, we have undertaken a series of studies on the familial aggregation in the clustering of the coronary heart disease risk factors which characterize this syndrome. In the present study, the hypothesis of shared genetic (pleiotropy) and/or environmental factors between body fat and blood lipids is investigated by examining cross-trait (eg, father's body fat with his son's blood lipid) familial resemblance between 4 indicators of body fat (body mass index [BMI], sum of 6 skin folds [SF6]) and fat distribution (the ratio of the trunk to extremity skin folds adjusted [TER-sf] and unadjusted [TER] for SF6), and 5 blood lipid variables (total cholesterol [CH], triglycerides [TG], cholesterol associated with high-density lipoproteins [HDL], the CH/HDL ratio and the difference between CH and HDL [CH-HDL]) measured in 1239 individuals from 309 families participating in the Quebec Family Study. A bivariate correlation model was used to obtain maximum likelihood estimates of cross-trait spouse, parent-offspring, and sibling correlations after adjustment of body fat and lipid data for the effects of age, separately in the four sex-by-generation groups. Likelihood ratio tests revealed the presence of significant (P<.05) cross-trait resemblance between body fat (BMI and SF6) and all lipid traits except CH and also between fat distribution (TER and TER-sf) and CH/HDL and CH-HDL. Only sibling cross- trait correlations were significant for all body fat-lipid pairs of measures, with bivariate familiality estimates (ie, shared genetic and/or environmental factors) ranging from 8% to 40%. Although the hypothesis of genetic pleiotropy cannot be ruled out from the pattern of cross-trait correlations found in the present study, we conclude that environmental factors shared within sibships are probably more important than common genes in determining the covariation between body fat and blood lipids.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3270-3277
Number of pages8
JournalArteriosclerosis, thrombosis, and vascular biology
Issue number11
StatePublished - 1997


  • Blood lipids
  • Body fat
  • Pleiotropy


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