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Influence of having a male twin on body mass index and risk for dyslipidemia in middle-aged and old women

Abstract

Background:

Animal experiments suggest that exposure to elevated levels of androgens during development by means of so-called hormonal programming causes metabolic aberrations at adulthood. An indirect strategy to address the possible importance of such an influence also in humans would be to study female dizygotic twins, presuming that those with a twin brother—due to diffusion of testosterone—have been exposed to higher androgen levels prenatally.

Design:

We have compared 8409 women with a male twin with 9166 women with a dizygotic female twin with respect to self-reported indices of anthropometry and metabolic aberrations at age 42 or older.

Results:

Body mass index (BMI), body weight and rate of dyslipidemia were moderately, but significantly, higher in women from opposite-sexed (OS) twin pairs; splitting for age revealed this difference to be present in those 60 years of age only.

Conclusion:

The results (i) support the notion that comparisons of women with a twin brother with women from same-sexed twin pairs may be used to shed light on possible long-term effects of interindividual variations in early androgen exposure, and (ii) suggest that the effects of early androgen exposure on metabolism previously observed in animal experiments are of relevance also for humans.

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Acknowledgements

This study was sponsored by the Swedish Research Council (grants no 6178 and 12206), Torsten and Ragnar Söderberg's Foundation, Bertil Hållstens Foundation/Swedish Brain Foundation, the Swedish Brain Power Initiative, Novo Nordisk Foundation, the Swedish Diabetes Association Research Foundation and the Swedish Knowledge Foundation through the Industrial PhD programme in Medical Bioinformatics at the Strategy and Development Office at Karolinska Institutet. Funding for the STR has been provided by the Swedish Department of Higher Education.

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Correspondence to E Eriksson.

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Alexanderson, C., Henningsson, S., Lichtenstein, P. et al. Influence of having a male twin on body mass index and risk for dyslipidemia in middle-aged and old women. Int J Obes 35, 1466–1469 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1038/ijo.2011.18

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/ijo.2011.18

Keywords

  • twins
  • hormonal programming
  • body mass index

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