Familial resemblance of body composition in prepubertal girls and their biological parents

Margarita S. Treuth, Nancy F. Butte, Kenneth J. Ellis, Lisa J. Martin, Anthony G. Comuzzie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Background: Heritability estimates for body mass index (BMI; in kg/m2) in children generally have been derived from twin and adoption studies. However, BMI does not reflect total, or regional body composition. Objective: We evaluated the familial resemblance of body composition between prepubertal girls of normal weight and body fatness and their parents by using state-of-the-art technology. Design: The subjects were 101 girls [mean age: 8.5 ± 0.4 y; percentage body fat (%BF): 12-30%] and their biological parents. Weight, height, and body composition [fat mass (FM), fat-free mass (FFM), and %BF] were measured with dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) and total body potassium (TBK). Results: Weight, height, and BMI showed low-to-moderate similarity between the girls and both their parents (r = 0.29-0.44. P < 0.01). The girls' FM, FFM, and %BF were significantly related to both parents' body composition. Cross-generational equations were developed for DXA, eg, child's %BF = 12.4 + (0.158 paternal %BF) + (0.145 maternal %BF) (adjusted r2 = 0.16, P < 0.001). Regional analysis with DXA showed that the adjusted r2 values for the arm, trunk, and leg regions, respectively, were 0.17, 0.33, and 0.31 for lean tissue mass and 0.11, 0.14. and 0.09 for FM. TBK showed a similar relation between parents and girls (r = 0.28-0.47, P < 0.01). Significant heritability (h2 ± SE) was detected for BMI (0.35 ± 0.17, P = 0.03) and %BF measured with DXA (0.50 ± 0.12, P = 0.0001). Conclusion: The body composition of prepubertal girls of normal weight and body fatness is significantly related to the body composition of both biological parents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)529-533
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Body composition
  • Body fat
  • Body mass index
  • Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry
  • Familial resemblance
  • Fat mass
  • Fat-free mass
  • Girls
  • Heritability
  • Obesity
  • Total body potassium

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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