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The University of Southampton

New study shows link between genes and risk of obesity

Published: 10 September 2019
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Faculty researchers have been involved in a large study that suggests different genetic factors control infant and child BMI.

The study, published in Science Advances, combine genome-wide association studies including the Southampton Women’s Survey, with modelling of longitudinal growth traits to study the genetics of infant and child growth, followed by functional, pathway, genetic correlation, risk score and co-localization analyses to determine how developmental timings, molecular pathways and genetic determinants of these traits overlap with those of adult health.

Southampton scientists were involved in genotyping and analysing data from the Southampton Women’s Survey.

Results showed a robust overlap between the genetics of child and adult BMI, with variants associated with adult BMI acting as early as four to six years old. However, results also demonstrated a completely distinct genetic makeup for peak BMI during infancy.

In light of the obesity epidemic, these findings are important to inform the timing and targets of prevention strategies.

Professor Hazel Inskip, of the Medical Research Council Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit, University of Southampton led the data analysis. She said: “We know that genetics can’t explain the obesity epidemic, as the rise in obesity has happened too quickly, though our genes do influence our predisposition to obesity. This study shows us that some genes that are linked to obesity in childhood and adulthood are different from those in infancy.  This indicates that we might need interventions strategies that differ for infants and children.”

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