The temporal relationship between parental concern of overeating and childhood obesity considering genetic susceptibility: longitudinal results from the IDEFICS/I.Family study

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Background: Many genes and molecular pathways are associated with obesity, but the mechanisms from genes to obesity are less well known. Eating behaviors represent a plausible pathway, but because the relationships of eating behaviors and obesity may be bi-directional, it remains challenging to resolve the underlying pathways. A longitudinal approach is needed to assess the contribution of genetic risk during the development of obesity in childhood. In this study we aim to examine the relationships between the polygenic risk score for body mass index (PRS-BMI), parental concern of overeating and obesity indices during childhood.

Methods: The IDEFICS/I.Family study is a school-based multicenter pan-European cohort of children observed for 6 years (mean +/- SD follow-up 5.8 +/- 0.4). Children examined in 2007/2008 (wave 1) (mean +/- SD age: 4.4 +/- 1.1, range: 2-9 years), in 2009/2010 (wave 2) and in 2013/2014 (wave 3) were included. A total of 5112 children (49% girls) participated at waves 1, 2 and 3. For 2656 children with genome-wide data we constructed a PRS based on 2.1 million single nucleotide polymorphisms. Z-score BMI and z-score waist circumference (WC) were assessed and eating behaviors and relevant confounders were reported by parents via questionnaires. Parental concern of overeating was derived from principal component analyses from an eating behavior questionnaire.

Results: In cross-lagged models, the prospective associations between z-score obesity indices and parental concern of overeating were bi-directional. In mediation models, the association between the PRS-BMI and parental concern of overeating at wave 3 was mediated by baseline z-BMI (beta = 0.16, 95% CI: 0.10, 0.21) and baseline z-WC (beta = 0.17, 95% CI: 0.11, 0.23). To a lesser extent, baseline parental concern of overeating also mediated the association between the PRS-BMI and z-BMI at wave 3 (beta = 0.10, 95% CI: 0.07, 0.13) and z-WC at wave 3 (beta = 0.09, 95% CI: 0.07, 0.12).

Conclusions: The findings suggest that the prospective associations between obesity indices and parental concern of overeating are likely bi-directional, but obesity indices have a stronger association with future parental concern of overeating than vice versa. The findings suggest parental concern of overeating as a possible mediator in the genetic susceptibility to obesity and further highlight that other pathways are also involved. A better understanding of the genetic pathways that lead to childhood obesity can help to prevent weight gain.

Original languageEnglish
Article number139
JournalInternational Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity
Issue number1
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 4 Nov 2021
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • 5141 Sociology
  • 3142 Public health care science, environmental and occupational health
  • Obesity
  • Overeating
  • Polygenic risk score
  • Body mass index
  • Genetics
  • Temporal associations
  • Mediation
  • TWIN

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