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11 September 2017
Many lifestyle factors influence the genetic effects

Photo: Emma Simpson

Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified hundreds of genes as being associated with body mass index (BMI). How these genetic effects are modulated by lifestyle factors has not been extensively investigated previously.

In a study published in PLOS Genetics we have utilised data from approximately 360,000 participants from the UK Biobank, aged 40–69 years, old to identify interactions between genetic and lifestyle factors in relation to BMI. We investigated 131 lifestyle factors, of which 15 influence the genetic effects on BMI. The most significant factors were those related to physical activity, alcohol consumption, and socioeconomic status.

For example, the effect of a genetic score for BMI was almost twice as high in participants who reported never drinking alcohol compared to every-day drinkers. Similarly, the effect of the genetic score for BMI was 2.5 times higher in participants who reported having a slow walking pace compared to participants who reported having a brisk walking pace. 

Our results show that many lifestyle factors influence the genetic effects, which suggests that changing our lifestyle may be a way to influence our genetic risk for obesity and other common human disorders.

Referens: Gene-environment interaction study for BMI reveals interactions between genetic factors and physical activity, alcohol consumption and socioeconomic status; PLOS Genetics, september (2017).  

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