A Within-sibling Pair Analysis of Lifestyle Behaviours and BMI Z-score in the Multi-centre I.Family Study

Leonie Helen Bogl, Kirsten Mehlig, Timm Intemann, Guiomar Masip, Anna Keski-Rahkonen, Paola Russo, Nathalie Michels, Lucia A. Reisch, Valeria Pala, Laura Johnson, Dénes Molnar, Michalis Tornaritis, Toomas Veidebaum, Luis Alberto Moreno, Wolfgang Ahrens, Lauren Lissner, Jaakko Kaprio, Antje Hebestreit, I.Family Consortium

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Background and aims: By investigating differences in lifestyle behaviours and BMI in sibling pairs, family-level confounding is minimized and causal inference is improved, compared to cross-sectional studies of unrelated children. Thus, we aimed to investigate within-sibling pair differences in different lifestyle behaviours and differences in BMI z-scores in children and adolescents.
Methods and results: We examined three groups of sibling pairs 1) all same-sex sibling pairs with maximum 4 years age difference (n = 1209 pairs from 1072 families in 8 countries, mean age 10.7 years, standard deviation 2.4 years), 2) sibling pairs discordant for overweight (n = 262) and 3) twin pairs (n = 85). Usual dietary intake was estimated by 24-h recalls and time spent in light (LPA) and moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) was measured by accelerometers. Screen time, sleep and dieting for weight loss were assessed by questionnaires.
Within all 3 groups of sibling pairs, more time in MVPA was associated with lower BMI z-score. Higher energy intake was associated with higher BMI z-score within twin pairs and within all sibling pairs who were not currently dieting for weight loss. Regarding LPA, screen time or sleep duration, no or inconsistent associations were observed for the three groups of sibling pairs.
Conclusions: MVPA and energy intake were associated with BMI differences within sibling and twin pairs growing up in the same home, thus independent of family-level confounding factors. Future studies should explore whether genetic variants regulating appetite or energy expenditure behaviours account for weight differences in sibling pairs.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)580-589
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019

Bibliographical note

Published online: 22. February 2019


  • Overweight-discordant
  • Sibling pairs
  • Twin pairs
  • Body mass index
  • Energy intake
  • MVPA

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