OBJECTIVE: The Old Order Amish (OOA) are a genetically well-defined closed Caucasian founder population. The Amish Family Diabetes Study was initiated to identify susceptibility genes for type 2 diabetes. This article describes the genetic epidemiology of type 2 diabetes and related traits in this unique population. RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS: The study cohort comprised Amish probands with diabetes who were diagnosed between 35 and 65 years of age and their extended adult family members. We recruited 953 adults who represented 45 multigenerational families. Phenotypic characterization included anthropometry, blood pressure, diabetes status, lipid profile, and leptin levels. RESULTS: The mean age of study participants was 46 years, and the mean BMI was 26.9 kg/m2. Subjects with type 2 diabetes were older, more obese, and had higher insulin levels. The prevalence of diabetes in the OOA was approximately half that of the Caucasian individuals who participated in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (95% CI 0.23-0.84). The prevalence of diabetes in the siblings of the diabetic probands was 26.5% compared with a prevalence of 7.0% in spouses (lambdaS = 3.28, 95% CI 1.58-6.80). The heritability of diabetes-related quantitative traits was substantial (13-70% for obesity-related traits, 10-42% for glucose levels, and 11-24% for insulin levels during the oral glucose tolerance test; P = 0.01 to <0.0001). CONCLUSIONS: Type 2 diabetes in the Amish has similar phenotypic features to that of the overall Caucasian population, although the prevalence in the Amish community is lower than that of the Caucasian population. There is significant familial clustering of type 2 diabetes and related traits. This unique family collection will be an excellent resource for investigating the genetic underpinnings of type 2 diabetes.

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