- OBJECTIVE: To assess the association between obesity and parental coronary heart disease (CHD) history. DESIGN: Analysis of data from an ongoing, large-scale survey on medical status, health behaviour and attitudes. SUBJECTS: Representative samples of Israeli military personnel upon discharge from compulsory service at age 20–22 y. Overall 14 297 men and 11 638 women were interviewed and examined upon release from military service between 1989 and 1999. MEASUREMENTS: Data on demographic characteristics, family history of CHD, lifestyle, weight and height were collected. Analysis of variance and logistic regression were used. RESULTS: Higher mean body mass index (BMI) and obesity (BMI>30 kg/m2) were associated with paternal CHD history in both sexes, and with maternal CHD history among men. Offspring of a parent with a positive CHD history had a higher mean BMI (23.22 vs 22.86 kg/m2, P<0.001) and were more likely to be obese (5.4 vs 3.7%, P<0.001) than offspring of parents with no history of CHD. Multivariate adjustment for demographic and behavioural variables associated with obesity attenuated the association (adjusted odds ratio for obesity 1.37, 95% confidence interval: 1.15, 1.64). When stratified by sex, this association remained statistically significant only among males. CONCLUSION: Young adults with a parental history of CHD are more likely to be overweight. This high-risk group should be targeted for early preventive activities.