Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and Genetic Risk of Obesity

Study Questions:

Is the association between weight and a genetic predisposition for adiposity influenced by consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages?


The investigators used data from the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS), the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (HPFS), and a replication cohort of 21,740 women from the Women’s Genome Health Study (WGHS) for the present analysis. The NHS is a prospective cohort of 121,700 female nurses, ages 30-55 years at study inception (1976). The HPFS is a prospective cohort of 51,529 male health professionals, ages 40-75 years at study inception (1986). The WGHS was a prospective cohort study of women health professionals, ages 45 years or greater, without major chronic diseases, during the period of 1992-1995. Only those apparently healthy at baseline, of European ancestry, and on whom genotype data were available were included. A genetic-predisposition score was calculated on the basis of 32 body mass index (BMI)-associated loci. Intake of sugar-sweetened beverages was collected through validated food frequency questionnaires.


BMI was associated with intake of sugar-sweetened beverages in all three cohorts. Among participants in the NHS (n = 6,934) and HPFS (n = 4,423), the genetic associations with BMI were stronger among participants who reported a higher consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, as compared to those who reported a lower consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages. Increases in BMI per increment of 10 risk alleles were 1.00 for an intake of <1 serving per month, 1.12 for 1-4 servings per month, 1.38 for 2-6 servings per week, and 1.78 for ≥1 servings per day (p < 0.001 for interaction). For the same categories of intake, the relative risks of incident obesity per increment of 10 risk alleles were 1.19 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.90-1.59), 1.67 (95% CI, 1.28-2.16), 1.58 (95% CI, 1.01-2.47), and 5.06 (95% CI, 1.66-15.5) (p = 0.02 for interaction). In the WGHS cohort, the increases in BMI per increment of 10 risk alleles were 1.39, 1.64, 1.90, and 2.53 across the four categories of intake (p = 0.001 for interaction). The relative risks for incident obesity were 1.40 (95% CI, 1.19-1.64), 1.50 (95% CI, 1.16-1.93), 1.54 (95% CI, 1.21-1.94), and 3.16 (95% CI, 2.03-4.92), respectively (p = 0.007 for interaction).


The investigators concluded that a genetic association with adiposity appeared to be more pronounced with greater intake of sugar-sweetened beverages.


These data suggest an interaction between sugar-containing drinks and a genetic predisposition toward increased BMI. Further research is needed to determine if reducing or eliminating sugar-containing drinks would have differential impact on prevention of weight gain or weight loss.

Keywords: Risk, Follow-Up Studies, Chronic Disease, Weight Loss, Body Weight, Beverages, Women's Health, Carbohydrates, Body Mass Index, Sweetening Agents, Adiposity, Cardiovascular Diseases, Genetic Predisposition to Disease, Obesity, Drugs, Chinese Herbal

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