Abstract

Background Obesity susceptibility genes are highly expressed in the brain suggesting that they might exert their influence on body weight through eating-related behaviors. Objectives To examine whether the genetic susceptibility to obesity is mediated by eating behavior patterns. Methods Participants were 3977 twins (33% monozygotic, 56% females), aged 31–37 y, from wave 5 of the FinnTwin16 study. They self-reported their height and weight, eating behaviors (15 items), diet quality, and self-measured their waist circumference (WC). For 1055 twins with genome-wide data, we constructed a polygenic risk score for BMI (PRSBMI) using almost 1 million single nucleotide polymorphisms. We used principal component analyses to identify eating behavior patterns, twin modeling to decompose correlations into genetic and environmental components, and structural equation modeling to test mediation models between the PRSBMI, eating behavior patterns, and obesity measures. Results We identified 4 moderately heritable (h2 = 36–48%) eating behavior patterns labeled “snacking,” “infrequent and unhealthy eating,” “avoidant eating,” and “emotional and external eating.” The highest phenotypic correlation with obesity measures was found for the snacking behavior pattern (r = 0.35 for BMI and r = 0.32 for WC; P < 0.001 for both), largely due to genetic factors in common (bivariate h2 > 70%). The snacking behavior pattern partially mediated the association between the PRSBMI and obesity measures (βindirect = 0.06; 95% CI: 0.02, 0.09; P = 0.002 for BMI; and βindirect = 0.05; 95% CI: 0.02, 0.08; P = 0.003 for WC). Conclusions Eating behavior patterns share a common genetic liability with obesity measures and are moderately heritable. Genetic susceptibility to obesity can be partly mediated by an eating pattern characterized by frequent snacking. Obesity prevention efforts might therefore benefit from focusing on eating behavior change, particularly in genetically susceptible individuals.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Volume112
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)956-966
Number of pages11
ISSN0002-9165
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • 3142 Public health care science, environmental and occupational health
  • 3143 Nutrition
  • eating behavior patterns
  • diet quality score
  • polygenic risk score
  • obesity measures
  • susceptibility to obesity
  • heritability
  • twins
  • genetics
  • BMI
  • snacking
  • BODY-MASS INDEX
  • ENVIRONMENTAL-INFLUENCES
  • ABDOMINAL OBESITY
  • POOLED ANALYSIS
  • DIET QUALITY
  • WEIGHT-GAIN
  • ADULTHOOD
  • YOUNG
  • FOOD
  • QUESTIONNAIRE

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