Heritabilities of lipids in young European American and African American twins

Anastasia Iliadou, Harold Snieder, Xiaoling Wang, Frank A. Treiber, Catherine L. Davis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Twin studies of lipids have almost exclusively involved Caucasians. People of African descent are known to show a healthier lipid profile, but relatively little is known about ethnic differences in genetic and environmental influences on lipids. One hundred and six African American (AA) and 106 European American (EA) twins (30 singletons and 91 complete pairs: 49 monozygotic, 21 dizygotic and 21 opposite-sex) from the south-eastern United States were studied (mean age 17.9 ± 3.2 years; 79% fasting). Lipids were assayed with the Cholestech LDX system. Analyses were adjusted for fasting status. Generalized estimating equations were used to test for the effects of sex and ethnicity on means, controlling for the dependence within twin pairs. Structural equation modeling was used to estimate genetic and environmental effects on each lipid variable. Females showed higher high-density lipoprotein (HDL) values than males (p < .001) and AAs showed higher HDL values than EAs (p < .001). EA males had higher triglyceride values than other groups (p = .02). All parameter estimates could be set equal across sex. Parameter estimates for total cholesterol, triglycerides and HDL could be set equal across ethnicity. The best fitting model for low-density lipoprotein (LDL) showed higher heritability in AAs (.92) than EAs (.69). Heritabilities ranged from 69% to 92%, with remaining variation explained by nonshared environmental effects. Adjustment for body mass index had virtually no effect on the heritability estimates. In this first twin study on lipids to include AAs, no ethnic differences in heritability were found except for LDL, where AAs exhibited higher estimates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)492-498
Number of pages7
JournalTwin Research and Human Genetics
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Genetics(clinical)


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