Developments in obesity genetics in the era of genome-wide association studies.
Journal of nutrigenetics and nutrigenomics 2011 ; 4: 222-38.
DOI : 10.1159/000332158
PubMed ID : 22056736
PMCID : 0
Obesity is an important factor contributing to the global burden of morbidity and mortality. By identifying obesity susceptibility genes, scientists aim to elucidate some of its aetiology. Early studies used candidate gene and genome-wide linkage approaches to search for such genes with limited success. However, the advent of genome-wide association studies (GWAS) has dramatically increased the pace of gene discovery. So far, GWAS have identified at least 50 loci robustly associated with body mass index (BMI), waist-to-hip ratio, body fat percentage and extreme obesity. Some of these have been shown to replicate in non-white populations and in children and adolescents. Furthermore, for some loci interaction studies have shown that the BMI-increasing effect is attenuated in physically active individuals. Despite many successful discoveries, the effect sizes of the established loci are small, and combined they explain only a fraction of the inter-individual variation in BMI. The low predictive value means that their value in mainstream health care is limited. However, as most of these newly established loci were not previously linked to obesity, they may provide new insights into body weight regulation. Continued efforts in gene discovery, using a range of approaches, will be needed to increase our understanding of obesity.