Segregation analysis of abdominal visceral fat: The HERITAGE family study

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A major gene hypothesis for abdominal visceral fat (AVF) level, both before and after adjustment for total body fat mass, was investigated in 86 white families who participated in the HERITAGE Family Study. In this study, sedentary families were tested for a battery of measures (baseline), endurance exercise trained for 20 weeks, and then remeasured again. The baseline measures reported here are unique in that the variance due to a potentially important environmental factor (activity level) was limited. AVF area was assessed at L4 to L5 by the use of computerized tomography scan, and total body fat mass was assessed with underwater weighing. For fat mass, a putative locus accounted for 64% of the variance, but there was no evidence of a multifactorial component (i.e., no polygenic and/or common familial environmental effects). For AVF area, both a major gene effect accounting for 54% of the variance and a multifactorial component accounting for 17% of the variance were significant. However, after AVF area was adjusted for the effects of total level of body fat, the support for a major gene was reduced. In particular, there was a major effect for fat mass-adjusted AVF area, but it was not transmitted from parents to off-spring (i.e., the three transmission probabilities were equal). The importance of this study is twofold. First, these results confirm a previous study that suggested that there is a putative major locus for AVF and for total body fat mass. Second, the findings from the HERITAGE Family Study suggest that the factors underlying AVF area in sedentary families may be similar to those in the population at large, which includes both sedentary and active families. Whether the gene(s) responsible for the high levels of AVF area is the same as that which influences total body fat content remains to be further investigated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)417-424
Number of pages8
JournalObesity research
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1997


  • Pleiotropy
  • Sedentary
  • Total body fat mass


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