34 Scopus citations


The evidence for common familial factors underlying total fat mass (estimated from underwater weighing) and abdominal visceral fat (assessed from CT scan) was examined in families participating in phase 2 of the Québec Family Study (QFS) using a bivariate familial correlation model. Previous QFS investigations suggest that both genetic (major and polygenic) and familial environmental factors influence each phenotype, accounting for between 55% to 71% of the phenotypic variance in fat mass, and between 55% to 72% for abdominal visceral fat The current study suggests that the bivariate familial effect ranges from 29% to 50%. This pattern suggests that there may be common familial determinants for abdominal visceral fat and total fat mass, as well as additional familial factors which are specific to each. The relatively high spouse cross-trait correlations usually suggest that a large percent of the bivariate familial effect may be environmental in origin. However, if mating is not random, then the spouse resemblance may reflect either genetic or environmental causes, depending on the source [i.e., through similar genes or cohabitation (environmental) effects]. Finally, there are significant sex differences in the magnitude of the familial cross-trait correla-tions involving parents, but not offspring, suggesting complex generation (i.e., age) and sex effects. For example, genes may turn on or off as a function of age and sex, and/or there may be an accumulation over time of effects due to the environment which may vary by sex. Whether the common familial factors are genetic (major and/or polygenic), environmental, or some combination of both, and whether the familial expression depends on sex and/or age warrants further investigation using more complex models.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)253-261
Number of pages9
JournalObesity research
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1996


  • Assortative mating
  • Obesity
  • Sex and generation effects


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