New Study Looks at Genetics, Rapid Childhood Growth and the Development of Obesity

A study released on June 4 in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, indicates that children with higher genetic risk scores (GRSs) are more likely to be chronically obese in adulthood.

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The 38-year prospective longitudinal study of a representative birth cohort looked at 1,037 men and women in New Zealand to test how genomic loci identified in genome-wide association studies influence the development of obesity.

According to the study, "polygenic risk for obesity was partly mediated by rapid growth in the early childhood years after birth," supporting the hypothesis that "developmental phenotypes are critical in linking a genetic predisposition to adult obesity." The study also found that genetic associations with growth and obesity risk were independent of family history. Genetic risk was also unrelated to birth weight.

The study concludes that because genetic variation linked with obesity risk operates, in part, through accelerating growth in the early childhood years after birth, etiological research and prevention strategies should target these early years. In addition, the study authors suggest that results from this and similar longitudinal studies that investigate obesity as an outcome to developmental processes, can inform public health initiatives and research priorities by identifying specific developmental phases where intervention efforts can have the greatest impact on the obesity epidemic.

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