Heritability of the Severity of the Metabolic Syndrome in Whites and Blacks in 3 Large Cohorts

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Although dichotomous criteria for the metabolic syndrome (MetS) appear heritable, it is not known whether MetS severity as assessed by a continuous MetS score is heritable and whether this varies by race.

Methods and Results—

We used SOLAR (Sequential Oligogenic Linkage Analysis Routines) to evaluate heritability of Adult Treatment Panel-III MetS and a sex- and race-specific MetS severity Z score among 3 large familial cohorts: the JHS (Jackson Heart Study, 1404 black participants), TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly, 1947 white participants), and PLRS (Princeton Lipid Research Study, 229 black and 527 white participants). Heritability estimates were larger for Adult Treatment Panel-III MetS among black compared with white cohort members (JHS 0.48; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.28–0.68 and PLRS blacks 0.93 [95% CI, 0.73–1.13] versus TOPS 0.21 [95% CI, −0.18 to 0.60] and PLRS whites 0.27 [95% CI, −0.04 to 0.58]). The difference by race narrowed when assessing heritability of the MetS severity score (JHS 0.52 [95% CI, 0.38, 0.66] and PLRS blacks 0.64 [95% CI, 0.13–1.15] versus TOPS 0.23 [95% CI, 0.15–0.31] and PLRS whites 0.60 [95% CI, 0.33–0.87]). There was a high degree of genetic and phenotypic correlation between MetS severity and the individual components of MetS among all groups, although the genetic correlations failed to reach statistical significance among PLRS blacks. Meta-analyses revealed a combined heritability estimate for Adult Treatment Panel-III MetS of 0.24 (95% CI, 0.11–0.36) and for the MetS severity score of 0.50 (95% CI, −0.05 to 0.99).


MetS severity seems highly heritable among whites and blacks. This continuous MetS severity Z score may provide a more useful means of characterizing phenotypic MetS in genetic studies by minimizing racial differences.

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