Genes a sign of childhood obesity risk, say scientists

By Oliver Nieburg

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Obesity

Genetics might explain 30% of weight variations in children, finds new research
Genetics might explain 30% of weight variations in children, finds new research
Children of obese parents may have a higher risk of becoming overweight because of their genetic makeup according to new research using a novel scientific method.

Researchers at the University College London used a new approach called Genome-wide Complex Trait Analyses (GCTA) to measure heritability of genes and the impact of body mass in children.

 ‘The missing heritability’

“GCTA has made major inroads into explaining the ‘missing heritability’ of BMI in adults​,” said the researchers.

Previous research had come up with contrasting conclusions, known as ‘the missing heritability’.

Earlier Genome-wide Association studies had associated 32 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) with body mass index in adults, but later studies said these SNPs could only explain 2% of BMI variations in either adults or children.

Genes explain 30% of weight variations

The present study published in the International Journal of Obesity​ used the new GCTA method and found genetics could explain 30% of the difference between the body mass index of one child compared to another.

“These results have clinical and public health implications,”​ said the researchers.

“Although the method used in the GCTA analysis cannot be used to predict obesity risk for any one individual because the genetic variants involved are not identified, the results underline the importance of additive genetic effects in the development of adiposity in childhood.”

“This supports the current convention of using parental weight status as a proxy for childhood obesity risk”

They added that any health initiatives should target children of obese parents because they were most at risk.

The researchers obtained data from twins born in England and Wales between 1994 and 1996.

International Journal of Obesity​ (2013), 1–4
doi: 10.1038/ijo.2013.30
‘Finding the missing heritability in pediatric obesity: the contribution of genome-wide complex trait analysis’
Authors: CH Llewellyn, M Trzaskowski, R Plomin and J Wardle

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1 comment

Misleading Study

Posted by Deirdre Pizzoferrato,

This study sends more misleading information to the public, and once again, puts parents in the hot seat - and takes food makers off the hook. One's "genetic makeup" is not necessarily the same as one's DNA, and what is not addressed in this study, nor in this review, are epigenetics. As somewhat explained in the above overview, only 2% of BMI variations are coded in our DNA - the rest ("30%") are the result of genetic expression. But, here's where it becomes misleading ... Because it takes hundreds of years to change our DNA sequencing, changes to the genome/gene expression can only be explained by epigenetic mutations, which are brought on by environmental triggers/causes. Such "triggers" remain elusive, however, we do know that they can include the various chemicals added to consumer products and our FOOD! So, this study is very misleading because it assumes a disconnect between our food environment and the predisposition of obesity through uncontrollable factors.

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