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This article is part of the supplement: Genetic Analysis Workshop 13: Analysis of Longitudinal Family Data for Complex Diseases and Related Risk Factors

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The genetics of cross-sectional and longitudinal body mass index

Lisa Strug12, Lei Sun12 and Mary Corey12*

Author Affiliations

1 University of Toronto, Public Health Sciences, 12 Queen's Park Crescent West, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

2 The Hospital for Sick Children, 555 University Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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BMC Genetics 2003, 4(Suppl 1):S14  doi:10.1186/1471-2156-4-S1-S14

Published: 31 December 2003


There has been a lack of consistency in detecting chromosomal loci that are linked to obesity-related traits. This may be due, in part, to the phenotype definition. Many studies use a one-time, single measurement as a phenotype while one's weight often fluctuates considerably throughout adulthood. Longitudinal data from the Framingham Heart Study were used to derive alternative phenotypes that may lead to more consistent findings. Body mass index (BMI), a measurement for obesity, is known to increase with age and then plateau or decline slightly; the decline phase may represent a threshold or survivor effect. We propose to use the weight gain phase of BMI to derive phenotypes useful for linkage analysis of obesity. Two phenotypes considered in the present study are the average of and the slope of the BMI measurements in the gain phase (gain mean and gain slope). For comparison, we also considered the average of all BMI measurements available (overall mean). Linkage analysis using the gain mean phenotype exhibited two markers with LOD scores greater than 3, with the largest score of 3.52 on chromosome 4 at ATA2A03. In contrast, no LOD scores greater than 3 were observed when overall mean was used. The gain slope produced weak evidence for linkage on chromosome 4 with a multipoint LOD score of 1.77 at GATA8A05. Our analysis shows how omitting the decline phase of BMI in the definition of obesity phenotypes can result in evidence for linkage which might have been otherwise overlooked.