Gene-Environment Interplay in the Development of Overweight


Purpose: Overweight in youth is influenced by genes and environment. Gene-environment interaction (G×E) has been demonstrated in twin studies and recent developments in genetics allow for studying G×E using individual genetic predispositions for overweight. We examine genetic influence on trajectories of overweight during adolescence and early adulthood and determine whether genetic predisposition is attenuated by higher socioeconomic status and having physically active parents. Methods: Latent class growth models of overweight were fitted using data from the TRacking Adolescents’ Individual Lives Survey (n = 2720). A polygenic score for body mass index (BMI) was derived using summary statistics from a genome-wide association study of adult BMI (N = ∼700,000) and tested as predictor of developmental pathways of overweight. Multinomial logistic regression models were used to examine effects of interactions of genetic predisposition with socioeconomic status and parental physical activity (n = 1675). Results: A three-class model of developmental pathways of overweight fitted the data best (“non-overweight”, “adolescent-onset overweight”, and “persistent overweight”). The polygenic score for BMI and socioeconomic status distinguished the persistent overweight and adolescent-onset overweight trajectories from the non-overweight trajectory. Only genetic predisposition differentiated the adolescent-onset from the persistent overweight trajectory. There was no evidence for G×E. Discussion: Higher genetic predisposition increased the risk of developing overweight during adolescence and young adulthood and was associated with an earlier age at onset. We did not find that genetic predisposition was offset by higher socioeconomic status or having physically active parents. Instead, lower socioeconomic status and higher genetic predisposition acted as additive risk factors for developing overweight.

Journal of Adolescent Health