Genetic Association of Waist-to-Hip Ratio With Cardiometabolic Traits, Type 2 Diabetes, and Coronary Heart Disease.


Importance: In observational studies, abdominal adiposity has been associated with type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease (CHD). Whether these associations represent causal relationships remains uncertain.

Objective: To test the association of a polygenic risk score for waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) adjusted for body mass index (BMI), a measure of abdominal adiposity, with type 2 diabetes and CHD through the potential intermediates of blood lipids, blood pressure, and glycemic phenotypes.

Design, Setting, and Participants: A polygenic risk score for WHR adjusted for BMI, a measure of genetic predisposition to abdominal adiposity, was constructed with 48 single-nucleotide polymorphisms. The association of this score with cardiometabolic traits, type 2 diabetes, and CHD was tested in a mendelian randomization analysis that combined case-control and cross-sectional data sets. Estimates for cardiometabolic traits were based on a combined data set consisting of summary results from 4 genome-wide association studies conducted from 2007 to 2015, including up to 322 154 participants, as well as individual-level, cross-sectional data from the UK Biobank collected from 2007-2011, including 111 986 individuals. Estimates for type 2 diabetes and CHD were derived from summary statistics of 2 separate genome-wide association studies conducted from 2007 to 2015 and including 149 821 individuals and 184 305 individuals, respectively, combined with individual-level data from the UK Biobank.

Exposures: Genetic predisposition to increased WHR adjusted for BMI.

Main Outcomes and Measures: Type 2 diabetes and CHD.

Results: Among 111 986 individuals in the UK Biobank, the mean age was 57 (SD, 8) years, 58 845 participants (52.5%) were women, and mean WHR was 0.875. Analysis of summary-level genome-wide association study results and individual-level UK Biobank data demonstrated that a 1-SD increase in WHR adjusted for BMI mediated by the polygenic risk score was associated with 27-mg/dL higher triglyceride levels, 4.1-mg/dL higher 2-hour glucose levels, and 2.1-mm Hg higher systolic blood pressure (each P 

Conclusions and Relevance: A genetic predisposition to higher waist-to-hip ratio adjusted for body mass index was associated with increased risk of type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease. These results provide evidence supportive of a causal association between abdominal adiposity and these outcomes.

Year of Publication
Date Published
2017 02 14
PubMed ID
Grant list
T32 HL007734 / HL / NHLBI NIH HHS / United States
R01 HL127564 / HL / NHLBI NIH HHS / United States