Interaction of Neighborhood and Genetic Risk on Waist Circumference in African-American Adults: A Longitudinal Study

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Understanding determinants of metabolic risk has become a national priority given the increasingly high prevalence rate of this condition among U.S. adults.


This study’s aim was to assess the impact of geneby- neighborhood social environment interactions on waist circumference (WC) as a primary marker of metabolic risk in underserved African-American adults. Based on a dual-risk model, it was hypothesized that those with the highest genetic risk and who experienced negative neighborhood environment conditions would demonstrate higher WC than those with fewer risk factors.


This study utilized a subsample of participants from the Positive Action for Today’s Health environmental intervention to improve access and safety for walking in higher-crime neighborhoods, who were willing to provide buccal swab samples for genotyping stress-related genetic pathways. Assessments were conducted with 228 African-American adults at baseline, 12, 18, and 24 months.


Analyses indicated three significant gene-byenvironment interactions on WC outcomes within the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) genetic pathway. Two interactions supported the dual-risk hypotheses, including the SNS genetic risk-by-neighborhood social life interaction (b = −0.11, t(618) = −2.02, p = .04), and SNS genetic risk-by-informal social control interaction (b = −0.51, t(618) = −1.95, p = .05) on WC outcomes. These interactions indicated that higher genetic risk and lower social-environmental supports were associated with higher WC. There was also one significant SNS genetic risk-by-neighborhood satisfaction interaction (b = 1.48, t(618) = 2.23, p = .02) on WC that was inconsistent with the dual-risk pattern.


Findings indicate that neighborhood and genetic factors dually influence metabolic risk and that these relations may be complex and warrant further study.

Trial Registration NCT01025726.