Inheritance of the waist-to-hip ratio in the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Family Heart Study

Mary F. Feitosa, Ingrid Borecki, Steven C. Hunt, Donna K. Arnett, D. C. Rao, Michael Province

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Objective: Considering that waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) is a simple anthropometric measure of obesity and is a better predictor of coronary heart disease than body mass index (BMI), the genetic underpinnings of WHR are of interest. The inheritance pattern of WHR, before and after adjustment for BMI (WHR-BMI), was investigated in 2713 individuals from 1038 nuclear families in the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Family Heart Study (NHLBI-FHS). Research Methods and Procedures: Waist and hip measurements were taken twice, and the means of the measurements were used to calculate the WHR. Adjustments for age were carried out separately by sex, using stepwise multiple regression procedures for WHR and WHR-BMI phenotypes. Segregation analysis was applied using the unified model as implemented in the computer program POINTER. Results: For age-adjusted WHR, the segregation results suggested an additive major gene that accounts for 35% of the phenotypic variance, and approximately 30% of the sample are homozygous for the "high" genotype. The results for age- and BMI-adjusted WHR were also compatible with a major gene; however, the multifactorial model provided the most parsimonious fit to the data. Discussion: Although the genetic mechanisms for several obesity traits have been studied, tests of Mendelian segregation on this simple anthropometric measure (WHR) have not been reported previously. This study provides evidence for the presence of a major gene for age-adjusted WHR, suggesting that it is an appropriate trait for further genetic analysis, especially because it has strong predictive value and probably relates biologically to cardiovascular risk.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)294-301
Number of pages8
JournalObesity Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2000


  • Anthropometric measure
  • Body-fat distribution
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Segregation analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Food Science
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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