Hispanic and African American populations exhibit an increased risk of obesity compared with populations of European origin, a feature that may be related to inherited risk alleles from Native American and West African parental populations. However, a relationship between West African ancestry and obesity-related traits, such as body mass index (BMI), fat mass (FM), and fat-free mass (FFM), and with bone mineral density (BMD) in African American women has only recently been reported. In order to evaluate further the influence of ancestry on body composition phenotypes, we studied a Hispanic population with substantial European, West African, and Native American admixture. We ascertained a sample of Puerto Rican women living in New York (n=64), for whom we measured BMI and body composition variables, such as FM, FFM, percent body fat, and BMD. Additionally, skin pigmentation was measured as the melanin index by reflectance spectroscopy. We genotyped 35 autosomal ancestry informative markers and estimated population and individual ancestral proportions in terms of European, West African, and Native American contributions to this population. The ancestry proportions corresponding to the three parental populations are: 53.3±2.8% European, 29.1±2.3% West African, and 17.6±2.4% Native American. We detected significant genetic structure in this population with a number of different tests. A highly significant correlation was found between skin pigmentation and individual ancestry (R2=0.597, P<0.001) that was not attributable to differences in socioeconomic status. A significant association was also found between BMD and European admixture (R2=0. 065, P=0.042), but no such correlation was evident with BMI or the remaining body composition measurements. We discuss the implications of our findings for the potential use of this Hispanic population for admixture mapping.
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