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Shared genetic basis for obstructive sleep apnea and adiposity measures



Obesity and obstructive sleep apnea each have a substantial genetic basis and commonly coexist in individuals. The degree to which the genetic underpinnings for these disorders overlap has not been previously quantified.


A total of 1802 individuals from 310 families in the Cleveland Family Study underwent home sleep studies as well as standardized assessment of body mass index (BMI) and circumferences at the waist, hip and neck. In 713 participants with laboratory sleep studies, fasting blood samples were assayed for leptin, adiponectin and resistin. Variance component models were used to estimate heritability and genetic correlations.


The heritability of the apnea hypopnea index (AHI) was 0.37±0.04 and 0.33±0.07 for home and laboratory sleep studies, respectively. The genetic correlations between AHI and anthropomorphic adiposity measures ranged from 0.57 to 0.61, suggesting that obesity can explain nearly 40% of the genetic variance in sleep apnea. The magnitude of the genetic correlations between apnea severity and adipokine levels was substantially less than those with anthropomorphic measures, ranging from 0.11 to 0.46. After adjusting for BMI, no significant genetic correlation with apnea severity was observed for any of the other adiposity measures.


Substantial but not complete overlap in genetic bases exists between sleep apnea and anthropomorphic indices of adiposity, and this overlap accounts for more than one-third of the genetic variance in apnea severity. These findings suggest that genetic polymorphisms exist that importantly influence sleep apnea susceptibility through both obesity-dependent and -independent pathways.

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This study was supported by National Institutes of Health Grants HL081385, HL046380 and M01 RR00080.

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Correspondence to S R Patel.

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Patel, S., Larkin, E. & Redline, S. Shared genetic basis for obstructive sleep apnea and adiposity measures. Int J Obes 32, 795–800 (2008).

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  • sleep apnea
  • genetics
  • heritability
  • genetic correlation

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