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1.  Association Analysis of the FTO Gene with Obesity in Children of Caucasian and African Ancestry Reveals a Common Tagging SNP 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(3):e1746.
Recently an association was demonstrated between the single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), rs9939609, within the FTO locus and obesity as a consequence of a genome wide association (GWA) study of type 2 diabetes in adults. We examined the effects of two perfect surrogates for this SNP plus 11 other SNPs at this locus with respect to our childhood obesity cohort, consisting of both Caucasians and African Americans (AA). Utilizing data from our ongoing GWA study in our cohort of 418 Caucasian obese children (BMI≥95th percentile), 2,270 Caucasian controls (BMI<95th percentile), 578 AA obese children and 1,424 AA controls, we investigated the association of the previously reported variation at the FTO locus with the childhood form of this disease in both ethnicities. The minor allele frequencies (MAF) of rs8050136 and rs3751812 (perfect surrogates for rs9939609 i.e. both r2 = 1) in the Caucasian cases were 0.448 and 0.443 respectively while they were 0.391 and 0.386 in Caucasian controls respectively, yielding for both an odds ratio (OR) of 1.27 (95% CI 1.08–1.47; P = 0.0022). Furthermore, the MAFs of rs8050136 and rs3751812 in the AA cases were 0.449 and 0.115 respectively while they were 0.436 and 0.090 in AA controls respectively, yielding an OR of 1.05 (95% CI 0.91–1.21; P = 0.49) and of 1.31 (95% CI 1.050–1.643; P = 0.017) respectively. Investigating all 13 SNPs present on the Illumina HumanHap550 BeadChip in this region of linkage disequilibrium, rs3751812 was the only SNP conferring significant risk in AA. We have therefore replicated and refined the association in an AA cohort and distilled a tag-SNP, rs3751812, which captures the ancestral origin of the actual mutation. As such, variants in the FTO gene confer a similar magnitude of risk of obesity to children as to their adult counterparts and appear to have a global impact.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0001746
PMCID: PMC2262153  PMID: 18335027
2.  Associations of Six Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms in Obesity-Related Genes With BMI and Risk of Obesity in Chinese Children 
Diabetes  2010;59(12):3085-3089.
OBJECTIVE
Childhood obesity strongly predisposes to some adult diseases. Recently, genome-wide association (GWA) studies in Caucasians identified multiple single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with BMI and obesity. The associations of those SNPs with BMI and obesity among other ethnicities are not fully described, especially in children. Among those previously identified SNPs, we selected six (rs7138803, rs1805081, rs6499640, rs17782313, rs6265, and rs10938397, in or near obesity-related genes FAIM2, NPC1, FTO, MC4R, BDNF, and GNPDA2, respectively) because of the relatively high minor allele frequencies in Chinese individuals and tested the associations of the SNPs with BMI and obesity in Chinese children.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS
We investigated the associations of these SNPs with BMI and obesity in school-aged children. A total of 3,503 children participated in the study, including 1,229 obese, 655 overweight, and 1,619 normal-weight children (diagnosed by the Chinese age- and sex-specific BMI cutoffs).
RESULTS
After age and sex adjustment and correction for multiple testing, the SNPs rs17782313, rs6265, and rs10938397 were associated with BMI (P = 1.0 × 10−5, 0.038, and 0.00093, respectively) and also obesity (P = 5.0 × 10−6, 0.043, and 0.00085, respectively) in the Chinese children. The SNPs rs17782313 and rs10938397 were also significantly associated with waist circumference, waist-to-height ratio, and fat mass percentage.
CONCLUSIONS
Results of this study support obesity-related genes in adults as important genes for BMI variation in children and suggest that some SNPs identified by GWA studies in Caucasians also confer risk for obesity in Chinese children.
doi:10.2337/db10-0273
PMCID: PMC2992769  PMID: 20843981
3.  Appetite regulation genes are associated with body mass index in black South African adolescents: a genetic association study 
BMJ Open  2012;2(3):e000873.
Background
Obesity is a complex trait with both environmental and genetic contributors. Genome-wide association studies have identified several variants that are robustly associated with obesity and body mass index (BMI), many of which are found within genes involved in appetite regulation. Currently, genetic association data for obesity are lacking in Africans—a single genome-wide association study and a few replication studies have been published in West Africa, but none have been performed in a South African population.
Objective
To assess the association of candidate loci with BMI in black South Africans. The authors focused on single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the FTO, LEP, LEPR, MC4R, NPY2R and POMC genes.
Design
A genetic association study.
Participants
990 randomly selected individuals from the larger Birth to Twenty cohort (a longitudinal birth cohort study of health and development in Africans).
Measures
The authors genotyped 44 SNPs within the six candidate genes that included known BMI-associated SNPs and tagSNPs based on linkage disequilibrium in an African population for FTO, LEP and NPY2R. To assess population substructure, the authors included 18 ancestry informative markers. Weight, height, sex, sex-specific pubertal stage and exact age collected during adolescence (13 years) were used to identify loci that predispose to obesity early in life.
Results
Sex, sex-specific pubertal stage and exact age together explain 14.3% of the variation in log(BMI) at age 13. After adjustment for these factors, four SNPs were individually significantly associated with BMI: FTO rs17817449 (p=0.022), LEP rs10954174 (p=0.0004), LEP rs6966536 (p=0.012) and MC4R rs17782313 (p=0.045). Together the four SNPs account for 2.1% of the variation in log(BMI). Each risk allele was associated with an estimated average increase of 2.5% in BMI.
Conclusions
The study highlighted SNPs in FTO and MC4R as potential genetic markers of obesity risk in South Africans. The association with two SNPs in the 3′ untranslated region of the LEP gene is novel.
Article summary
Article focus
This is a replication study aiming to reproduce BMI association findings from European cohorts in a South African population.
This study focused on genes linked to appetite control that were previously reported to show association with BMI or obesity and included FTO, LEP, LEPR, MC4R, NPY2R and POMC.
Adolescent data were used to facilitate the identification of genetic loci that predispose to obesity early in life, as it is known that overweight/obese children have an elevated risk of becoming obese adults.
Key messages
We found four SNPs were individually significantly associated with BMI: FTO rs17817449 (p=0.022), LEP rs10954174 (p=0.0004), LEP rs6966536 (p=0.012) and MC4R rs17782313 (p=0.045).
Together the four SNPs account for 2.1% of the variation in log(BMI).
We also demonstrated that an accumulation of risk alleles is linked to a significant increase in BMI—individuals with seven risk alleles had an 11.0% increase in median BMI compared with those with two risk alleles.
Strengths and limitations of this study
This study provides the first preliminary evidence of the role of genetic variants in obesity risk in an adolescent black South African population.
This study was only moderately powered to detect association with BMI, and not all genes were exhaustively investigated.
TagSNP selection would have been enhanced if South African data were available for this approach.
doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2012-000873
PMCID: PMC3358621  PMID: 22614171
4.  Influence of common variants in FTO and near INSIG2 and MC4R on growth curves for adiposity in African– and European–American youth 
European Journal of Epidemiology  2011;26(6):463-473.
Recent genome-wide association (GWA) studies identified several common variants for obesity: rs9939609 in FTO, rs7566605 near INSIG2 and both rs17782313 and rs17700633 near the MC4R gene. This study aimed to assess the influence of these polymorphisms on development of adiposity in European– (EA) and African–American (AA) youth in two ongoing longitudinal studies including 986 and 606 participants with age ranges of 10–25.8 and 4.0–23.9 years, respectively. Individual growth curve modeling was conducted separately in the two studies. We tested the effect of the SNPs on levels and increase with age (i.e., slope) of weight, body mass index (BMI), waist circumference and skinfolds from childhood to adulthood, and potential moderation by ethnicity or gender. Beta coefficients computed in the two studies were pooled using meta-analysis. Rs9939609 was associated with logtransformed levels of BMI (β = 0.021, P = 0.01), weight (β = 0.019, P = 0.04) and waist circumference (β = 0.012, P = 0.04). Rs17782313 was associated with triceps (β = 0.05, P = 0.02). Significant interactions of rs17700633 with gender were observed on subscapular-, suprailiac- and sum of skinfolds, with significant associations limited to males (P < 0.05). No significant interactions with ethnicity were found. Only one effect on the slope was observed, rs17700633 showed a significant interaction with age on triceps (β = 0.004, P = 0.04). In two longitudinal studies of EA and AA youth, we replicated the effect of FTO and common variants near MC4R on general and central adiposity. These variants did not affect the increase with age of adiposity from childhood to adulthood with one exception. Common variants for obesity identified in GWA studies have detectable but modest effects on growth curves for adiposity in EA and AA youth.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s10654-011-9583-4) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
doi:10.1007/s10654-011-9583-4
PMCID: PMC3115048  PMID: 21544599
Adiposity; Genetic; Growth curve model
5.  Development and Evaluation of a Genetic Risk Score for Obesity 
Biodemography and social biology  2013;59(1):10.1080/19485565.2013.774628.
Background
Results from genome-wide association studies (GWAS) represent a potential resource for etiological and treatment research. GWAS of obesity-related phenotypes have been especially successful. To translate this success into a research tool, we developed and tested a “genetic risk score” (GRS) that summarizes an individual’s genetic predisposition to obesity.
Methods
Different GWAS of obesity-related phenotypes report different sets of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) as the best genomic markers of obesity risk. Therefore, we applied a 3-stage approach that pooled results from multiple GWAS to select SNPs to include in our GRS: The 3 stages are (1) Extraction. SNPs with evidence of association are compiled from published GWAS; (2) Clustering. SNPs are grouped according to patterns of linkage disequilibrium; (3) Selection. Tag SNPs are selected from clusters that meet specific criteria. We applied this 3-stage approach to results from 16 GWAS of obesity-related phenotypes in European-descent samples to create a GRS. We then tested the GRS in the Atherosclerosis Risk in the Communities (ARIC) Study cohort (N=10,745, 55% female, 77% white, 23% African American).
Results
Our 32-locus GRS was a statistically significant predictor of body mass index (BMI) and obesity among ARIC whites (for BMI, r=0.13, p<1×10−30; for obesity, area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC)=0.57 [95% CI 0.55–0.58]). The GRS improved prediction of obesity (as measured by delta-AUC and integrated discrimination index) when added to models that included demographic and geographic information. FTO- and MC4R-linked SNPs, and a non-genetic risk assessment consisting of a socioeconomic index (p<0.01 for all comparisons). The GRS also predicted increased mortality risk over 17 years of follow-up. The GRS performed less well among African Americans.
Conclusions
The obesity GRS derived using our 3-stage approach is not useful for clinical risk prediction, but may have value as a tool for etiological and treatment research.
doi:10.1080/19485565.2013.774628
PMCID: PMC3671353  PMID: 23701538
6.  Analysis of the contribution of FTO, NPC1, ENPP1, NEGR1, GNPDA2 and MC4R genes to obesity in Mexican children 
BMC Medical Genetics  2013;14:21.
Background
Recent genome wide association studies (GWAS) and previous positional linkage studies have identified more than 50 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with obesity, mostly in Europeans. We aimed to assess the contribution of some of these SNPs to obesity risk and to the variation of related metabolic traits, in Mexican children.
Methods
The association of six European obesity-related SNPs in or near FTO, NPC1, ENPP1, NEGR1, GNPDA2 and MC4R genes with risk of obesity was tested in 1,463 school-aged Mexican children (Ncases = 514; Ncontrols = 949). We also assessed effects of these SNPs on the variation of body mass index (BMI), fasting serum insulin levels, fasting plasma glucose levels, total cholesterol and triglyceride levels, in a subset of 1,171 nonobese Mexican children.
Results
We found a significant effect of GNPDA2 rs10938397 on risk of obesity (odds ratio [OR] = 1.30; P = 1.34 × 10-3). Furthermore, we found nominal associations between obesity risk or BMI variation and the following SNPs: ENPP1 rs7754561, MC4R rs17782313 and NEGR1 rs2815752. Importantly, the at-risk alleles of both MC4R rs17782313 and NPC1 rs1805081 showed significant effect on increased fasting glucose levels (β = 0.36 mmol/L; P = 1.47 × 10-3) and decreased fasting serum insulin levels (β = −0.10 μU/mL; P = 1.21 × 10-3), respectively.
Conclusion
Our present results suggest that some obesity-associated SNPs previously reported in Europeans also associate with risk of obesity, or metabolic quantitative traits, in Mexican children. Importantly, we found new associations between MC4R and fasting glucose levels, and between NPC1 and fasting insulin levels.
doi:10.1186/1471-2350-14-21
PMCID: PMC3577489  PMID: 23375129
Obesity; Mexican children; Single nucleotide polymorphism
7.  Genome-Wide Association Study Implicates Chromosome 9q21.31 as a Susceptibility Locus for Asthma in Mexican Children 
PLoS Genetics  2009;5(8):e1000623.
Many candidate genes have been studied for asthma, but replication has varied. Novel candidate genes have been identified for various complex diseases using genome-wide association studies (GWASs). We conducted a GWAS in 492 Mexican children with asthma, predominantly atopic by skin prick test, and their parents using the Illumina HumanHap 550 K BeadChip to identify novel genetic variation for childhood asthma. The 520,767 autosomal single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) passing quality control were tested for association with childhood asthma using log-linear regression with a log-additive risk model. Eleven of the most significantly associated GWAS SNPs were tested for replication in an independent study of 177 Mexican case–parent trios with childhood-onset asthma and atopy using log-linear analysis. The chromosome 9q21.31 SNP rs2378383 (p = 7.10×10−6 in the GWAS), located upstream of transducin-like enhancer of split 4 (TLE4), gave a p-value of 0.03 and the same direction and magnitude of association in the replication study (combined p = 6.79×10−7). Ancestry analysis on chromosome 9q supported an inverse association between the rs2378383 minor allele (G) and childhood asthma. This work identifies chromosome 9q21.31 as a novel susceptibility locus for childhood asthma in Mexicans. Further, analysis of genome-wide expression data in 51 human tissues from the Novartis Research Foundation showed that median GWAS significance levels for SNPs in genes expressed in the lung differed most significantly from genes not expressed in the lung when compared to 50 other tissues, supporting the biological plausibility of our overall GWAS findings and the multigenic etiology of childhood asthma.
Author Summary
Asthma is a leading chronic childhood disease with a presumed strong genetic component, but no genes have been definitely shown to influence asthma development. Few genetic studies of asthma have included Hispanic populations. Here, we conducted a genome-wide association study of asthma in 492 Mexican children with asthma, predominantly atopic by skin prick test, and their parents to identify novel genetic variation for childhood asthma. We implicated several polymorphisms in or near TLE4 on chromosome 9q21.31 (a novel candidate region for childhood asthma) and replicated one polymorphism in an independent study of childhood-onset asthmatics with atopy and their parents of Mexican ethnicity. Hispanics have differing proportions of Native American, European, and African ancestries, and we found less Native American ancestry than expected at chromosome 9q21.31. This suggests that chromosome 9q21.31 may underlie ethnic differences in childhood asthma and that future replication would be most effective in populations with Native American ancestry. Analysis of publicly available genome-wide expression data revealed that association signals in genes expressed in the lung differed most significantly from genes not expressed in the lung when compared to 50 other tissues, supporting the biological plausibility of the overall GWAS findings and the multigenic etiology of asthma.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1000623
PMCID: PMC2722731  PMID: 19714205
8.  A Systematic Mapping Approach of 16q12.2/FTO and BMI in More Than 20,000 African Americans Narrows in on the Underlying Functional Variation: Results from the Population Architecture using Genomics and Epidemiology (PAGE) Study 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(1):e1003171.
Genetic variants in intron 1 of the fat mass– and obesity-associated (FTO) gene have been consistently associated with body mass index (BMI) in Europeans. However, follow-up studies in African Americans (AA) have shown no support for some of the most consistently BMI–associated FTO index single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). This is most likely explained by different race-specific linkage disequilibrium (LD) patterns and lower correlation overall in AA, which provides the opportunity to fine-map this region and narrow in on the functional variant. To comprehensively explore the 16q12.2/FTO locus and to search for second independent signals in the broader region, we fine-mapped a 646–kb region, encompassing the large FTO gene and the flanking gene RPGRIP1L by investigating a total of 3,756 variants (1,529 genotyped and 2,227 imputed variants) in 20,488 AAs across five studies. We observed associations between BMI and variants in the known FTO intron 1 locus: the SNP with the most significant p-value, rs56137030 (8.3×10−6) had not been highlighted in previous studies. While rs56137030was correlated at r2>0.5 with 103 SNPs in Europeans (including the GWAS index SNPs), this number was reduced to 28 SNPs in AA. Among rs56137030 and the 28 correlated SNPs, six were located within candidate intronic regulatory elements, including rs1421085, for which we predicted allele-specific binding affinity for the transcription factor CUX1, which has recently been implicated in the regulation of FTO. We did not find strong evidence for a second independent signal in the broader region. In summary, this large fine-mapping study in AA has substantially reduced the number of common alleles that are likely to be functional candidates of the known FTO locus. Importantly our study demonstrated that comprehensive fine-mapping in AA provides a powerful approach to narrow in on the functional candidate(s) underlying the initial GWAS findings in European populations.
Author Summary
Genetic variants within the fat mass– and obesity-associated (FTO) gene are associated with increased risk of obesity. To better understand which specific genetic variant(s) in this genetic region is associated with obesity risk, we attempt to genotype or impute all known genetic variants in the region and test for association with body mass index as a measurement of obesity in over 20,000 African Americans. We identified 29 potential candidate variants, of which one variant (rs1421085) is a particularly interesting candidate for future functional follow-up studies. Our example shows the powerful approach of studying a large African American population, substantially reducing the number of possible functional variants compared with European descent populations.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1003171
PMCID: PMC3547789  PMID: 23341774
9.  Common variants near MC4R are associated with general and visceral adiposity in European- and African-American Youth 
The Journal of pediatrics  2010;156(4):598-605.e1.
Objective
Recent genome-wide association studies found common variants near the melanocortin 4 receptor (MC4R) gene associated with obesity. This study aimed to assess the influence of the identified single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) rs17782313 and rs17700633 on general and visceral adiposity in European- and African-American youth.
Study design
In 1890 youth (49.1% European-American, 45.6% male, mean age 16.7 years), we examined the associations of the rs17782313 and rs17700633 with anthropometry, percent body fat (%BF), visceral adipose tissue (VAT) and subcutaneous abdominal adipose tissue (SAAT). Interaction of the SNPs with ethnicity or gender was investigated and haplotype analyses conducted.
Results
Rs17782313 was significantly associated with weight (P=0.02) and waist circumference (P=0.03) in all subjects, and with body mass index (P=0.002) in females. In females rs17700633 was significantly associated with %BF (P=0.001), VAT (P<0.001) and SAAT (P<0.001). Rs17700633 was significantly associated with fasting insulin and HOMA, but the significance attenuated after adjustment for %BF. These findings were confirmed by haplotype analysis. No significant interactions of the variants with ethnicity were found for any of these phenotypes.
Conclusions
The relatively large effect of these common variants near MC4R on general and visceral adiposity in childhood, especially in girls, could prove helpful in elucidating the molecular mechanisms underlying the development of obesity in early life.
doi:10.1016/j.jpeds.2009.10.037
PMCID: PMC4018229  PMID: 20070976
obesity; genetics; ethnicity
10.  Replication of genetic loci for ages at menarche and menopause in the multi-ethnic Population Architecture using Genomics and Epidemiology (PAGE) study 
Human Reproduction (Oxford, England)  2013;28(6):1695-1706.
STUDY QUESTION
Do genetic associations identified in genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of age at menarche (AM) and age at natural menopause (ANM) replicate in women of diverse race/ancestry from the Population Architecture using Genomics and Epidemiology (PAGE) Study?
SUMMARY ANSWER
We replicated GWAS reproductive trait single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in our European descent population and found that many SNPs were also associated with AM and ANM in populations of diverse ancestry.
WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY
Menarche and menopause mark the reproductive lifespan in women and are important risk factors for chronic diseases including obesity, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Both events are believed to be influenced by environmental and genetic factors, and vary in populations differing by genetic ancestry and geography. Most genetic variants associated with these traits have been identified in GWAS of European-descent populations.
STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION
A total of 42 251 women of diverse ancestry from PAGE were included in cross-sectional analyses of AM and ANM.
MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS
SNPs previously associated with ANM (n = 5 SNPs) and AM (n = 3 SNPs) in GWAS were genotyped in American Indians, African Americans, Asians, European Americans, Hispanics and Native Hawaiians. To test SNP associations with ANM or AM, we used linear regression models stratified by race/ethnicity and PAGE sub-study. Results were then combined in race-specific fixed effect meta-analyses for each outcome. For replication and generalization analyses, significance was defined at P < 0.01 for ANM analyses and P < 0.017 for AM analyses.
MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE
We replicated findings for AM SNPs in the LIN28B locus and an intergenic region on 9q31 in European Americans. The LIN28B SNPs (rs314277 and rs314280) were also significantly associated with AM in Asians, but not in other race/ethnicity groups. Linkage disequilibrium (LD) patterns at this locus varied widely among the ancestral groups. With the exception of an intergenic SNP at 13q34, all ANM SNPs replicated in European Americans. Three were significantly associated with ANM in other race/ethnicity populations: rs2153157 (6p24.2/SYCP2L), rs365132 (5q35/UIMC1) and rs16991615 (20p12.3/MCM8). While rs1172822 (19q13/BRSK1) was not significant in the populations of non-European descent, effect sizes showed similar trends.
LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION
Lack of association for the GWAS SNPs in the non-European American groups may be due to differences in locus LD patterns between these groups and the European-descent populations included in the GWAS discovery studies; and in some cases, lower power may also contribute to non-significant findings.
WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS
The discovery of genetic variants associated with the reproductive traits provides an important opportunity to elucidate the biological mechanisms involved with normal variation and disorders of menarche and menopause. In this study we replicated most, but not all reported SNPs in European descent populations and examined the epidemiologic architecture of these early reported variants, describing their generalizability and effect size across differing ancestral populations. Such data will be increasingly important for prioritizing GWAS SNPs for follow-up in fine-mapping and resequencing studies, as well as in translational research.
STUDY FUNDING/COMPETING INTEREST(S)
The Population Architecture Using Genomics and Epidemiology (PAGE) program is funded by the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), supported by U01HG004803 (CALiCo), U01HG004798 (EAGLE), U01HG004802 (MEC), U01HG004790 (WHI) and U01HG004801 (Coordinating Center), and their respective NHGRI ARRA supplements. The authors report no conflicts of interest.
doi:10.1093/humrep/det071
PMCID: PMC3657124  PMID: 23508249
menopause; menarche; genome-wide association study; race/ethnicity; single nucleotide polymorphism
11.  Pregnancy Weight Gain and Childhood Body Weight: A Within-Family Comparison 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(10):e1001521.
David Ludwig and colleagues examine the within-family relationship between pregnancy weight gain and the offspring's childhood weight gain, thereby reducing the influence of genes and environment.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Excessive pregnancy weight gain is associated with obesity in the offspring, but this relationship may be confounded by genetic and other shared influences. We aimed to examine the association of pregnancy weight gain with body mass index (BMI) in the offspring, using a within-family design to minimize confounding.
Methods and Findings
In this population-based cohort study, we matched records of all live births in Arkansas with state-mandated data on childhood BMI collected in public schools (from August 18, 2003 to June 2, 2011). The cohort included 42,133 women who had more than one singleton pregnancy and their 91,045 offspring. We examined how differences in weight gain that occurred during two or more pregnancies for each woman predicted her children's BMI and odds ratio (OR) of being overweight or obese (BMI≥85th percentile) at a mean age of 11.9 years, using a within-family design. For every additional kg of pregnancy weight gain, childhood BMI increased by 0.0220 (95% CI 0.0134–0.0306, p<0.0001) and the OR of overweight/obesity increased by 1.007 (CI 1.003–1.012, p = 0.0008). Variations in pregnancy weight gain accounted for a 0.43 kg/m2 difference in childhood BMI. After adjustment for birth weight, the association of pregnancy weight gain with childhood BMI was attenuated but remained statistically significant (0.0143 kg/m2 per kg of pregnancy weight gain, CI 0.0057–0.0229, p = 0.0007).
Conclusions
High pregnancy weight gain is associated with increased body weight of the offspring in childhood, and this effect is only partially mediated through higher birth weight. Translation of these findings to public health obesity prevention requires additional study.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Childhood obesity has become a worldwide epidemic. For example, in the United States, the number of obese children has more than doubled in the past 30 years. 7% of American children aged 6–11 years were obese in 1980, compared to nearly 18% in 2010. Because of the rising levels of obesity, the current generation of children may have a shorter life span than their parents for the first time in 200 years.
Childhood obesity has both immediate and long-term effects on health. The initial problems are usually psychological. Obese children often experience discrimination, leading to low self-esteem and depression. Their physical health also suffers. They are more likely to be at risk of cardiovascular disease from high cholesterol and high blood pressure. They may also develop pre-diabetes or diabetes type II. In the long-term, obese children tend to become obese adults, putting them at risk of premature death from stroke, heart disease, or cancer.
There are many factors that lead to childhood obesity and they often act in combination. A major risk factor, especially for younger children, is having at least one obese parent. The challenge lies in unravelling the complex links between the genetic and environmental factors that are likely to be involved.
Why Was This Study Done?
Several studies have shown that a child's weight is influenced by his/her mother's weight before pregnancy and her weight gain during pregnancy. An obese mother, or a mother who puts on more pregnancy weight than average, is more likely to have an obese child.
One explanation for the effects of pregnancy weight gain is that the mother's overeating directly affects the baby's development. It may change the baby's brain and metabolism in such a way as to increase the child's long-term risk of obesity. Animal studies have confirmed that the offspring of overfed rats show these kinds of physiological changes. However, another possible explanation is that mother and baby share a similar genetic make-up and environment so that a child becomes obese from inheriting genetic risk factors, and growing up in a household where being overweight is the norm.
The studies in humans that have been carried out to date have not been able to distinguish between these explanations. Some have given conflicting results. The aim of this study was therefore to look for evidence of links between pregnancy weight gain and children's weight, using an approach that would separate the impact of genetic and environmental factors from a direct effect on the developing baby.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers examined data from the population of the US state of Arkansas recorded between 2003 and 2011. They looked at the health records of over 42,000 women who had given birth to more than one child during this period. This gave them information about how much weight the women had gained during each of their pregnancies. The researchers also looked at the school records of the children, over 91,000 in total, which included the children's body mass index (BMI, which factors in both height and weight). They analyzed the data to see if there was a link between the mothers' pregnancy weight gain and the child's BMI at around 12 years of age. Most importantly, they looked at these links within families, comparing children born to the same mother. The rationale for this approach was that these children would share a similar genetic make-up and would have grown up in similar environments. By taking genetics and environment into account in this manner, any remaining evidence of an impact of pregnancy weight gain on the children's BMI would have to be explained by other factors.
The results showed that the amount of weight each mother gained in pregnancy predicted her children's BMI and the likelihood of her children being overweight or obese. For every additional kg the mother gained during pregnancy, the children's BMI increased by 0.022. The children of mothers who put on the most weight had a BMI that was on average 0.43 higher than the children whose mothers had put on the least weight.
The study leaves some questions unanswered, including whether the mother's weight before pregnancy makes a difference to their children's BMI. The researchers were not able to obtain these measurements, nor the weight of the fathers. There may have also been other factors that weren't measured that might explain the links that were found.
What Do These Findings Mean?
This study shows that mothers who gain excessive weight during pregnancy increase the risk of their child becoming obese. This appears to be partly due to a direct effect on the developing baby.
These results represent a significant public health concern, even though the impact on an individual basis is relatively small. They could contribute to several hundred thousand cases of childhood obesity worldwide. Importantly, they also suggest that some cases could be prevented by measures to limit excessive weight gain during pregnancy. Such an approach could prove effective, as most mothers will not want to damage their child's health, and might therefore be highly motivated to change their behavior. However, because inadequate weight gain during pregnancy can also adversely affect the developing fetus, it will be essential for women to receive clear information about what constitutes optimal weight gain during pregnancy.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001521.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide Childhood Obesity Facts
The UK National Health Service article “How much weight will I put on during my pregnancy?” provides information on pregnancy and weight gain and links to related resources
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001521
PMCID: PMC3794857  PMID: 24130460
12.  EMR-linked GWAS study: investigation of variation landscape of loci for body mass index in children 
Frontiers in Genetics  2013;4:268.
Common variations at the loci harboring the fat mass and obesity gene (FTO), MC4R, and TMEM18 are consistently reported as being associated with obesity and body mass index (BMI) especially in adult population. In order to confirm this effect in pediatric population five European ancestry cohorts from pediatric eMERGE-II network (CCHMC-BCH) were evaluated.
Method: Data on 5049 samples of European ancestry were obtained from the Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) of two large academic centers in five different genotyped cohorts. For all available samples, gender, age, height, and weight were collected and BMI was calculated. To account for age and sex differences in BMI, BMI z-scores were generated using 2000 Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) growth charts. A Genome-wide association study (GWAS) was performed with BMI z-score. After removing missing data and outliers based on principal components (PC) analyses, 2860 samples were used for the GWAS study. The association between each single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) and BMI was tested using linear regression adjusting for age, gender, and PC by cohort. The effects of SNPs were modeled assuming additive, recessive, and dominant effects of the minor allele. Meta-analysis was conducted using a weighted z-score approach.
Results: The mean age of subjects was 9.8 years (range 2–19). The proportion of male subjects was 56%. In these cohorts, 14% of samples had a BMI ≥95 and 28 ≥ 85%. Meta analyses produced a signal at 16q12 genomic region with the best result of p = 1.43 × 10-7 [p(rec) = 7.34 × 10-8) for the SNP rs8050136 at the first intron of FTO gene (z = 5.26) and with no heterogeneity between cohorts (p = 0.77). Under a recessive model, another published SNP at this locus, rs1421085, generates the best result [z = 5.782, p(rec) = 8.21 × 10-9]. Imputation in this region using dense 1000-Genome and Hapmap CEU samples revealed 71 SNPs with p < 10-6, all at the first intron of FTO locus. When hetero-geneity was permitted between cohorts, signals were also obtained in other previously identified loci, including MC4R (rs12964056, p = 6.87 × 10-7, z = -4.98), cholecystokinin CCK (rs8192472, p = 1.33 × 10-6, z = -4.85), Interleukin 15 (rs2099884, p = 1.27 × 10-5, z = 4.34), low density lipoprotein receptor-related protein 1B [LRP1B (rs7583748, p = 0.00013, z = -3.81)] and near transmembrane protein 18 (TMEM18) (rs7561317, p = 0.001, z = -3.17). We also detected a novel locus at chromosome 3 at COL6A5 [best SNP = rs1542829, minor allele frequency (MAF) of 5% p = 4.35 × 10-9, z = 5.89].
Conclusion: An EMR linked cohort study demonstrates that the BMI-Z measurements can be successfully extracted and linked to genomic data with meaningful confirmatory results. We verified the high prevalence of childhood rate of overweight and obesity in our cohort (28%). In addition, our data indicate that genetic variants in the first intron of FTO, a known adult genetic risk factor for BMI, are also robustly associated with BMI in pediatric population.
doi:10.3389/fgene.2013.00268
PMCID: PMC3847941  PMID: 24348519
BMI; obesity; polymorphism; GWAS
13.  Physical Activity Attenuates the Genetic Predisposition to Obesity in 20,000 Men and Women from EPIC-Norfolk Prospective Population Study 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(8):e1000332.
Shengxu Li and colleagues use data from a large prospective observational cohort to examine the extent to which a genetic predisposition toward obesity may be modified by living a physically active lifestyle.
Background
We have previously shown that multiple genetic loci identified by genome-wide association studies (GWAS) increase the susceptibility to obesity in a cumulative manner. It is, however, not known whether and to what extent this genetic susceptibility may be attenuated by a physically active lifestyle. We aimed to assess the influence of a physically active lifestyle on the genetic predisposition to obesity in a large population-based study.
Methods and Findings
We genotyped 12 SNPs in obesity-susceptibility loci in a population-based sample of 20,430 individuals (aged 39–79 y) from the European Prospective Investigation of Cancer (EPIC)-Norfolk cohort with an average follow-up period of 3.6 y. A genetic predisposition score was calculated for each individual by adding the body mass index (BMI)-increasing alleles across the 12 SNPs. Physical activity was assessed using a self-administered questionnaire. Linear and logistic regression models were used to examine main effects of the genetic predisposition score and its interaction with physical activity on BMI/obesity risk and BMI change over time, assuming an additive effect for each additional BMI-increasing allele carried. Each additional BMI-increasing allele was associated with 0.154 (standard error [SE] 0.012) kg/m2 (p = 6.73×10−37) increase in BMI (equivalent to 445 g in body weight for a person 1.70 m tall). This association was significantly (pinteraction = 0.005) more pronounced in inactive people (0.205 [SE 0.024] kg/m2 [p = 3.62×10−18; 592 g in weight]) than in active people (0.131 [SE 0.014] kg/m2 [p = 7.97×10−21; 379 g in weight]). Similarly, each additional BMI-increasing allele increased the risk of obesity 1.116-fold (95% confidence interval [CI] 1.093–1.139, p = 3.37×10−26) in the whole population, but significantly (pinteraction = 0.015) more in inactive individuals (odds ratio [OR] = 1.158 [95% CI 1.118–1.199; p = 1.93×10−16]) than in active individuals (OR = 1.095 (95% CI 1.068–1.123; p = 1.15×10−12]). Consistent with the cross-sectional observations, physical activity modified the association between the genetic predisposition score and change in BMI during follow-up (pinteraction = 0.028).
Conclusions
Our study shows that living a physically active lifestyle is associated with a 40% reduction in the genetic predisposition to common obesity, as estimated by the number of risk alleles carried for any of the 12 recently GWAS-identified loci.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
In the past few decades, the global incidence of obesity—defined as a body mass index (BMI, a simple index of weight-for-height that uses the weight in kilograms divided by the square of the height in meters) of 30 and over, has increased so much that this growing public health concern is now commonly referred to as the “obesity epidemic.” Once considered prevalent only in high-income countries, obesity is an increasing health problem in low- and middle-income countries, particularly in urban settings. In 2005, at least 400 million adults world-wide were obese, and the projected figure for 2015 is a substantial increase of 300 million to around 700 million. Childhood obesity is also a growing concern. Contributing factors to the obesity epidemic are a shift in diet to an increased intake of energy-dense foods that are high in fat and sugars and a trend towards decreased physical activity due to increasingly sedentary lifestyles.
However, genetics are also thought to play a critical role as genetically predisposed individuals may be more prone to obesity if they live in an environment that has abundant access to energy-dense food and labor-saving devices.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although recent genetic studies (genome-wide association studies) have identified 12 alleles (a DNA variant that is located at a specific position on a specific chromosome) associated with increased BMI, there has been no convincing evidence of the interaction between genetics and lifestyle. In this study the researchers examined the possibility of such an interaction by assessing whether individuals with a genetic predisposition to increased obesity risk could modify this risk by increasing their daily physical activity.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used a population-based cohort study of 25,631 people living in Norwich, UK (The EPIC-Norfolk study) and identified individuals who were 39 to 79 years old during a health check between 1993 and 1997. The researchers invited these people to a second health examination. In total, 20,430 individuals had baseline data available, of which 11,936 had BMI data at the second health check. The researchers used genotyping methods and then calculated a genetic predisposition score for each individual and their occupational and leisure-time physical activities were assessed by using a validated self-administered questionnaire. Then, the researchers used modeling techniques to examine the main effects of the genetic predisposition score and its interaction with physical activity on BMI/obesity risk and BMI change over time. The researchers found that each additional BMI-increasing allele was associated with an increase in BMI equivalent to 445 g in body weight for a person 1.70 m tall and that the size of this effect was greater in inactive people than in active people. In individuals who have a physically active lifestyle, this increase was only 379 g/allele, or 36% lower than in physically inactive individuals in whom the increase was 592 g/allele. Furthermore, in the total sample each additional obesity-susceptibility allele increased the odds of obesity by 1.116-fold. However, the increased odds per allele for obesity risk were 40% lower in physically active individuals (1.095 odds/allele) compared to physically inactive individuals (1.158 odds/allele).
What Do These Findings Mean?
The findings of this study indicate that the genetic predisposition to obesity can be reduced by approximately 40% by having a physically active lifestyle. The findings of this study suggest that, while the whole population benefits from increased physical activity levels, individuals who are genetically predisposed to obesity would benefit more than genetically protected individuals. Furthermore, these findings challenge the deterministic view of the genetic predisposition to obesity that is often held by the public, as they show that even the most genetically predisposed individuals will benefit from adopting a healthy lifestyle. The results are limited by participants self-reporting their physical activity levels, which is less accurate than objective measures of physical activity.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000332.
This study relies on the results of previous genome-wide association studies The National Human Genome Research Institute provides an easy-to-follow guide to understanding such studies
The International Association for the Study of Obesity aims to improve global health by promoting the understanding of obesity and weight-related diseases through scientific research and dialogue
The International Obesity Taskforce is the research-led think tank and advocacy arm of the International Association for the Study of Obesity
The Global Alliance for the Prevention of Obesity and Related Chronic Disease is a global action program that addresses the issues surrounding the prevention of obesity
The National Institutes of Health has its own obesity task force, which includes 26 institutes
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000332
PMCID: PMC2930873  PMID: 20824172
14.  Non-replication of an association of CTNNBL1 polymorphisms and obesity in a population of Central European ancestry 
BMC Medical Genetics  2009;10:14.
Background
A recent genome-wide association (GWA) study of U.S. Caucasians suggested that eight single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in CTNNBL1 are associated with obesity and increased fat mass. We analysed the respective SNPs in data from our previously published GWA for early onset obesity (case-control design), in GWA data from a population-based cohort of adults, and in an independent family-based obesity study. We investigated whether variants in CTNNBL1 (including rs6013029) and in three other genes (SH3PXD2B, SLIT3 and FLJ42133,) were associated with obesity.
Methods
The GWA studies were carried out using Affymetrix® SNP Chips with approximately 500,000 markers each. In the families, SNP rs6013029 was genotyped using the TaqMan® allelic discrimination assay. The German case-control GWA included 487 extremely obese children and adolescents and 442 healthy lean individuals. The adult GWA included 1,644 individuals from a German population-based study (KORA). The 775 independent German families consisted of extremely obese children and adolescents and their parents.
Results
We found no evidence for an association of the reported variants in CTNNBL1 with early onset obesity or increased BMI. Further, in our family-based study we found no evidence for over-transmission of the rs6013029 risk-allele T to obese children. Additionally, we found no evidence for an association of SH3PXD2B, SLIT3 and FLJ42133 variants in our two GWA samples.
Conclusion
We detected no confirmation of the recent association of variants in CTNNBL1 with obesity in a population of Central European ancestry.
doi:10.1186/1471-2350-10-14
PMCID: PMC2669797  PMID: 19228371
15.  Genome-Wide Association Study of Coronary Heart Disease and Its Risk Factors in 8,090 African Americans: The NHLBI CARe Project 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(2):e1001300.
Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the leading cause of mortality in African Americans. To identify common genetic polymorphisms associated with CHD and its risk factors (LDL- and HDL-cholesterol (LDL-C and HDL-C), hypertension, smoking, and type-2 diabetes) in individuals of African ancestry, we performed a genome-wide association study (GWAS) in 8,090 African Americans from five population-based cohorts. We replicated 17 loci previously associated with CHD or its risk factors in Caucasians. For five of these regions (CHD: CDKN2A/CDKN2B; HDL-C: FADS1-3, PLTP, LPL, and ABCA1), we could leverage the distinct linkage disequilibrium (LD) patterns in African Americans to identify DNA polymorphisms more strongly associated with the phenotypes than the previously reported index SNPs found in Caucasian populations. We also developed a new approach for association testing in admixed populations that uses allelic and local ancestry variation. Using this method, we discovered several loci that would have been missed using the basic allelic and global ancestry information only. Our conclusions suggest that no major loci uniquely explain the high prevalence of CHD in African Americans. Our project has developed resources and methods that address both admixture- and SNP-association to maximize power for genetic discovery in even larger African-American consortia.
Author Summary
To date, most large-scale genome-wide association studies (GWAS) carried out to identify risk factors for complex human diseases and traits have focused on population of European ancestry. It is currently unknown whether the same loci associated with complex diseases and traits in Caucasians will replicate in population of African ancestry. Here, we conducted a large GWAS to identify common DNA polymorphisms associated with coronary heart disease (CHD) and its risk factors (type-2 diabetes, hypertension, smoking status, and LDL- and HDL-cholesterol) in 8,090 African Americans as part of the NHLBI Candidate gene Association Resource (CARe) Project. We replicated 17 associations previously reported in Caucasians, suggesting that the same loci carry common DNA sequence variants associated with CHD and its risk factors in Caucasians and African Americans. At five of these 17 loci, we used the different patterns of linkage disequilibrium between populations of European and African ancestry to identify DNA sequence variants more strongly associated with phenotypes than the index SNPs found in Caucasians, suggesting smaller genomic intervals to search for causal alleles. We also used the CARe data to develop new statistical methods to perform association studies in admixed populations. The CARe Project data represent an extraordinary resource to expand our understanding of the genetics of complex diseases and traits in non-European-derived populations.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1001300
PMCID: PMC3037413  PMID: 21347282
16.  Contribution of Common Genetic Variants to Obesity and Obesity-Related Traits in Mexican Children and Adults 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e70640.
Background
Several studies have identified multiple obesity-associated loci mainly in European populations. However, their contribution to obesity in other ethnicities such as Mexicans is largely unknown. The aim of this study was to examine 26 obesity-associated single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) in a sample of Mexican mestizos.
Methods
9 SNPs in biological candidate genes showing replications (PPARG, ADRB3, ADRB2, LEPR, GNB3, UCP3, ADIPOQ, UCP2, and NR3C1), and 17 SNPs in or near genes associated with obesity in first, second and third wave GWAS (INSIG2, FTO, MC4R, TMEM18, FAIM2/BCDIN3, BDNF, SH2B1, GNPDA2, NEGR1, KCTD15, SEC16B/RASAL2, NPC1, SFRF10/ETV5, MAF, PRL, MTCH2, and PTER) were genotyped in 1,156 unrelated Mexican-Mestizos including 683 cases (441 obese class I/II and 242 obese class III) and 473 normal-weight controls. In a second stage we selected 12 of the SNPs showing nominal associations with obesity, to seek associations with quantitative obesity-related traits in 3 cohorts including 1,218 Mexican Mestizo children, 945 Mexican Mestizo adults, and 543 Indigenous Mexican adults.
Results
After adjusting for age, sex and admixture, significant associations with obesity were found for 6 genes in the case-control study (ADIPOQ, FTO, TMEM18, INSIG2, FAIM2/BCDIN3 and BDNF). In addition, SH2B1 was associated only with class I/II obesity and MC4R only with class III obesity. SNPs located at or near FAIM2/BCDIN3, TMEM18, INSIG2, GNPDA2 and SEC16B/RASAL2 were significantly associated with BMI and/or WC in the combined analysis of Mexican-mestizo children and adults, and FTO locus was significantly associated with increased BMI in Indigenous Mexican populations.
Conclusions
Our findings replicate the association of 8 obesity-related SNPs with obesity risk in Mexican adults, and confirm the role of some of these SNPs in BMI in Mexican adults and children.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0070640
PMCID: PMC3738539  PMID: 23950976
17.  HTR1B, ADIPOR1, PPARGC1A, and CYP19A1 and Obesity in a Cohort of Caucasians and African Americans: An Evaluation of Gene-Environment Interactions and Candidate Genes 
American Journal of Epidemiology  2011;175(1):11-21.
The World Health Organization estimates that the number of obese and overweight adults has increased to 1.6 billion, with concomitant increases in comorbidity. While genetic factors for obesity have been extensively studied in Caucasians, fewer studies have investigated genetic determinants of body mass index (BMI; weight (kg)/height (m)2) in African Americans. A total of 38 genes and 1,086 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in African Americans (n = 1,173) and 897 SNPs in Caucasians (n = 1,165) were examined in the Southern Community Cohort Study (2002–2009) for associations with BMI and gene × environment interactions. A statistically significant association with BMI survived correction for multiple testing at rs4140535 (β = −0.04, 95% confidence interval: −0.06, −0.02; P = 5.76 × 10−5) in African Americans but not in Caucasians. Gene-environment interactions were observed with cigarette smoking and a SNP in ADIPOR1 in African Americans, as well as between a different SNP in ADIPOR1 and physical activity in Caucasians. A SNP in PPARGC1A interacted with alcohol consumption in African Americans, and a different SNP in PPARGC1A was nominally associated in Caucasians. A SNP in CYP19A1 interacted with dietary energy intake in African Americans, and another SNP in CYP191A had an independent association with BMI in Caucasians.
doi:10.1093/aje/kwr272
PMCID: PMC3244609  PMID: 22106445
African continental ancestry group; body mass index; European continental ancestry group; genetics; molecular epidemiology; obesity
18.  Genetic risk factors for body mass index and obesity in an ethnically diverse population: results from the Population Architecture using Genomics and Epidemiology (PAGE) Study 
Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.)  2013;21(4):10.1002/oby.20268.
Several genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have demonstrated that common genetic variants contribute to obesity. However, studies of this complex trait have focused on ancestrally European populations, despite the high prevalence of obesity in some minority groups. As part of the ‘Population Architecture using Genomics and Epidemiology (PAGE)’ Consortium, we investigated the association between thirteen GWAS-identified SNPs and BMI and obesity in 69,775 subjects, including 6,149 American Indians, 15,415 African-Americans, 2,438 East Asians, 7,346 Hispanics, 604 Pacific Islanders, and 37,823 European Americans. For the BMI-increasing allele of each SNP, we calculated beta coefficients using linear regression (for BMI) and risk estimates using logistic regression (for obesity defined as BMI ≥ 30) followed by fixed-effects meta-analysis to combine results across PAGE sites. Analyses stratified by racial/ethnic group assumed an additive genetic model and adjusted for age, sex, and current smoking. We defined “replicating SNPs” (in European Americans) and “generalizing SNPs” (in other racial/ethnic groups) as those associated with an allele frequency-specific increase in BMI. By this definition, we replicated 9/13 SNP associations (5 out of 8 loci) in European Americans. We also generalized 8/13 SNP associations (5/8 loci) in East Asians, 7/13 (5/8 loci) in African Americans, 6/13 (4/8 loci) in Hispanics, 5/8 in Pacific Islanders (5/8 loci), and 5/9 (4/8 loci) in American Indians. Linkage disequilibrium patterns suggest that tagSNPs selected for European Americans may not adequately tag causal variants in other ancestry groups. Accordingly, fine-mapping in large samples is needed to comprehensively explore these loci in diverse populations.
doi:10.1002/oby.20268
PMCID: PMC3482415  PMID: 23712987
19.  Genetic Markers of Adult Obesity Risk Are Associated with Greater Early Infancy Weight Gain and Growth 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(5):e1000284.
Ken Ong and colleagues genotyped children from the ALSPAC birth cohort and showed an association between greater early infancy gains in weight and length and genetic markers for adult obesity risk.
Background
Genome-wide studies have identified several common genetic variants that are robustly associated with adult obesity risk. Exploration of these genotype associations in children may provide insights into the timing of weight changes leading to adult obesity.
Methods and Findings
Children from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) birth cohort were genotyped for ten genetic variants previously associated with adult BMI. Eight variants that showed individual associations with childhood BMI (in/near: FTO, MC4R, TMEM18, GNPDA2, KCTD15, NEGR1, BDNF, and ETV5) were used to derive an “obesity-risk-allele score” comprising the total number of risk alleles (range: 2–15 alleles) in each child with complete genotype data (n = 7,146). Repeated measurements of weight, length/height, and body mass index from birth to age 11 years were expressed as standard deviation scores (SDS). Early infancy was defined as birth to age 6 weeks, and early infancy failure to thrive was defined as weight gain between below the 5th centile, adjusted for birth weight. The obesity-risk-allele score showed little association with birth weight (regression coefficient: 0.01 SDS per allele; 95% CI 0.00–0.02), but had an apparently much larger positive effect on early infancy weight gain (0.119 SDS/allele/year; 0.023–0.216) than on subsequent childhood weight gain (0.004 SDS/allele/year; 0.004–0.005). The obesity-risk-allele score was also positively associated with early infancy length gain (0.158 SDS/allele/year; 0.032–0.284) and with reduced risk of early infancy failure to thrive (odds ratio  = 0.92 per allele; 0.86–0.98; p = 0.009).
Conclusions
The use of robust genetic markers identified greater early infancy gains in weight and length as being on the pathway to adult obesity risk in a contemporary birth cohort.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
The proportion of overweight and obese children is increasing across the globe. In the US, the Surgeon General estimates that, compared with 1980, twice as many children and three times the number of adolescents are now overweight. Worldwide, 22 million children under five years old are considered by the World Health Organization to be overweight.
Being overweight or obese in childhood is associated with poor physical and mental health. In addition, childhood obesity is considered a major risk factor for adult obesity, which is itself a major risk factor for cancer, heart disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis, and other chronic conditions.
The most commonly used measure of whether an adult is a healthy weight is body mass index (BMI), defined as weight in kilograms/(height in metres)2. However, adult categories of obese (>30) and overweight (>25) BMI are not directly applicable to children, whose BMI naturally varies as they grow. BMI can be used to screen children for being overweight and or obese but a diagnosis requires further information.
Why Was This Study Done?
As the numbers of obese and overweight children increase, a corresponding rise in future numbers of overweight and obese adults is also expected. This in turn is expected to lead to an increasing incidence of poor health. As a result, there is great interest among health professionals in possible pathways between childhood and adult obesity. It has been proposed that certain periods in childhood may be critical for the development of obesity.
In the last few years, ten genetic variants have been found to be more common in overweight or obese adults. Eight of these have also been linked to childhood BMI and/or obesity. The authors wanted to identify the timing of childhood weight changes that may be associated with adult obesity. Knowledge of obesity risk genetic variants gave them an opportunity to do so now, without following a set of children to adulthood.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The authors analysed data gathered from a subset of 7,146 singleton white European children enrolled in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) study, which is investigating associations between genetics, lifestyle, and health outcomes for a group of children in Bristol whose due date of birth fell between April 1991 and December 1992. They used knowledge of the children's genetic makeup to find associations between an obesity risk allele score—a measure of how many of the obesity risk genetic variants a child possessed—and the children's weight, height, BMI, levels of body fat (at nine years old), and rate of weight gain, up to age 11 years.
They found that, at birth, children with a higher obesity risk allele score were not any heavier, but in the immediate postnatal period they were less likely to be in the bottom 5% of the population for weight gain (adjusted for birthweight), often termed “failure to thrive.” At six weeks of age, children with a higher obesity risk allele score tended to be longer and heavier, even allowing for weight at birth.
After six weeks of age, the obesity risk allele score was not associated with any further increase in length/height, but it was associated with a more rapid weight gain between birth and age 11 years. BMI is derived from height and weight measurements, and the association between the obesity risk allele score and BMI was weak between birth and age three-and-a-half years, but after that age the association with BMI increased rapidly. By age nine, children with a higher obesity risk allele score tended to be heavier and taller, with more fat on their bodies.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The combined obesity allele risk score is associated with higher rates of weight gain and adult obesity, and so the authors conclude that weight gain and growth even in the first few weeks after birth may be the beginning of a pathway of greater adult obesity risk.
A study that tracks a population over time can find associations but it cannot show cause and effect. In addition, only a relatively small proportion (1.7%) of the variation in BMI at nine years of age is explained by the obesity risk allele score.
The authors' method of finding associations between childhood events and adult outcomes via genetic markers of risk of disease as an adult has a significant advantage: the authors did not have to follow the children themselves to adulthood, so their findings are more likely to be relevant to current populations. Despite this, this research does not yield advice for parents how to reduce their children's obesity risk. It does suggest that “failure to thrive” in the first six weeks of life is not simply due to a lack of provision of food by the baby's caregiver but that genetic factors also contribute to early weight gain and growth.
The study looked at the combined obesity risk allele score and the authors did not attempt to identify which individual alleles have greater or weaker associations with weight gain and overweight or obesity. This would require further research based on far larger numbers of babies and children. The findings may also not be relevant to children in other types of setting because of the effects of different nutrition and lifestyles.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000284.
Further information is available on the ALSPAC study
The UK National Health Service and other partners provide guidance on establishing a healthy lifestyle for children and families in their Change4Life programme
The International Obesity Taskforce is a global network of expertise and the advocacy arm of the International Association for the Study of Obesity. It works with the World Health Organization, other NGOs, and stakeholders and provides information on overweight and obesity
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US provide guidance and tips on maintaining a healthy weight, including BMI calculators in both metric and Imperial measurements for both adults and children. They also provide BMI growth charts for boys and girls showing how healthy ranges vary for each sex at with age
The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health provides growth charts for weight and length/height from birth to age 4 years that are based on WHO 2006 growth standards and have been adapted for use in the UK
The CDC Web site provides information on overweight and obesity in adults and children, including definitions, causes, and data
The CDC also provide information on the role of genes in causing obesity.
The World Health Organization publishes a fact sheet on obesity, overweight and weight management, including links to childhood overweight and obesity
Wikipedia includes an article on childhood obesity (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000284
PMCID: PMC2876048  PMID: 20520848
20.  Differences in Candidate Gene Association between European Ancestry and African American Asthmatic Children 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(2):e16522.
Background
Candidate gene case-control studies have identified several single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that are associated with asthma susceptibility. Most of these studies have been restricted to evaluations of specific SNPs within a single gene and within populations from European ancestry. Recently, there is increasing interest in understanding racial differences in genetic risk associated with childhood asthma. Our aim was to compare association patterns of asthma candidate genes between children of European and African ancestry.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Using a custom-designed Illumina SNP array, we genotyped 1,485 children within the Greater Cincinnati Pediatric Clinic Repository and Cincinnati Genomic Control Cohort for 259 SNPs in 28 genes and evaluated their associations with asthma. We identified 14 SNPs located in 6 genes that were significantly associated (p-values <0.05) with childhood asthma in African Americans. Among Caucasians, 13 SNPs in 5 genes were associated with childhood asthma. Two SNPs in IL4 were associated with asthma in both races (p-values <0.05). Gene-gene interaction studies identified race specific sets of genes that best discriminate between asthmatic children and non-allergic controls.
Conclusions/Significance
We identified IL4 as having a role in asthma susceptibility in both African American and Caucasian children. However, while IL4 SNPs were associated with asthma in asthmatic children with European and African ancestry, the relative contributions of the most replicated asthma-associated SNPs varied by ancestry. These data provides valuable insights into the pathways that may predispose to asthma in individuals with European vs. African ancestry.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0016522
PMCID: PMC3046166  PMID: 21387019
21.  Genome-Wide Association Study of White Blood Cell Count in 16,388 African Americans: the Continental Origins and Genetic Epidemiology Network (COGENT) 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(6):e1002108.
Total white blood cell (WBC) and neutrophil counts are lower among individuals of African descent due to the common African-derived “null” variant of the Duffy Antigen Receptor for Chemokines (DARC) gene. Additional common genetic polymorphisms were recently associated with total WBC and WBC sub-type levels in European and Japanese populations. No additional loci that account for WBC variability have been identified in African Americans. In order to address this, we performed a large genome-wide association study (GWAS) of total WBC and cell subtype counts in 16,388 African-American participants from 7 population-based cohorts available in the Continental Origins and Genetic Epidemiology Network. In addition to the DARC locus on chromosome 1q23, we identified two other regions (chromosomes 4q13 and 16q22) associated with WBC in African Americans (P<2.5×10−8). The lead SNP (rs9131) on chromosome 4q13 is located in the CXCL2 gene, which encodes a chemotactic cytokine for polymorphonuclear leukocytes. Independent evidence of the novel CXCL2 association with WBC was present in 3,551 Hispanic Americans, 14,767 Japanese, and 19,509 European Americans. The index SNP (rs12149261) on chromosome 16q22 associated with WBC count is located in a large inter-chromosomal segmental duplication encompassing part of the hydrocephalus inducing homolog (HYDIN) gene. We demonstrate that the chromosome 16q22 association finding is most likely due to a genotyping artifact as a consequence of sequence similarity between duplicated regions on chromosomes 16q22 and 1q21. Among the WBC loci recently identified in European or Japanese populations, replication was observed in our African-American meta-analysis for rs445 of CDK6 on chromosome 7q21 and rs4065321 of PSMD3-CSF3 region on chromosome 17q21. In summary, the CXCL2, CDK6, and PSMD3-CSF3 regions are associated with WBC count in African American and other populations. We also demonstrate that large inter-chromosomal duplications can result in false positive associations in GWAS.
Author Summary
Although recent genome-wide association studies have identified common genetic variants associated with total white blood cell (WBC) and WBC sub-type counts in European and Japanese ancestry populations, whether these or other loci account for differences in WBC count among African Americans is unknown. By examining >16,000 African Americans, we show that, in addition to the previously identified Duffy Antigen Receptor for Chemokines (DARC) locus on chromosome 1, another variant, rs9131, and other nearby variants on human chromosome 4 are associated with total WBC count in African Americans. The variants span the CXCL2 gene, which encodes an inflammatory mediator involved in WBC production and migration. We show that the association is not restricted to African Americans but is also present in independent samples of European Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Japanese. This finding is potentially important because WBC mediate or have altered counts in a variety of acute and chronic disorders.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1002108
PMCID: PMC3128101  PMID: 21738479
22.  Genome-Wide Association of BMI in African Americans 
Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.)  2011;20(3):622-627.
Recent genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified multiple novel loci associated with obesity in Europeans but results in other ethnicities are less convincing. Here, we report a two-stage GWAS of BMI in African Americans. The GWAS was performed using the Affymetrix 6.0 platform in 816 nondiabetic and 899 diabetic nephropathy subjects. 746,626 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were tested for association with BMI after adjustment for age, gender, disease status, and population structure. Sixty high scoring SNPs that showed nominal association in both GWAS cohorts were further replicated in 3,274 additional subjects in four replication cohorts and a meta-analysis was computed. Meta-analysis of 4,989 subjects revealed five SNPs (rs6794092, rs268972, rs2033195, rs815611, and rs6088887) at four loci showing consistent associations in both GWAS (P < 0.0001) and replication cohorts (P < 0.05) with combined P values range from 2.4 × 10−6 to 5 × 10−5. These loci are located near PP13439-TMEM212, CDH12, MFAP3-GALNT10, and FER1L4 and had effect sizes between 0.091 and 0.167 s.d. unit (or 0.67–1.24 kg/m2) of BMI for each copy of the effect allele. Our findings suggest the presence of novel loci potentially associated with adiposity in African Americans. Further replication and meta-analysis in African Americans and other populations will shed light on the role of these loci in different ethnic populations.
doi:10.1038/oby.2011.154
PMCID: PMC3291470  PMID: 21701570
23.  The common obesity variant near MC4R gene is associated with higher intakes of total energy and dietary fat, weight change and diabetes risk in women 
Human Molecular Genetics  2008;17(22):3502-3508.
Melanocortin-4 receptor (MC4R) plays critical roles in regulating food intake and energy balance. Recent genome wide scans found common variants near MC4R were related to obesity and insulin resistance. We examined the associations of the reported variants rs17782313 (T>C) and rs17700633 (G>A) with dietary intakes, weight change and diabetes risk in 5724 women (1533 with type 2 diabetes) from a prospective cohort. Under an additive inheritance model, SNP rs17782313 was significantly associated with high intakes of total energy (P = 0.028), total fat (P = 0.008) and protein (P = 0.003). Adjustment for age, BMI, diabetes status and other covariates did not appreciably change the associations. The SNP was also associated with significantly increasing trend of percentage of energy from total fat (P for trend = 0.037). The associations between SNP rs17782313 and higher BMI (P = 0.002) were independent of dietary intakes. In addition, carriers of allele-C had 0.2 kg/m2 greater 10-year increase in BMI from cohort baseline 1976 to 1986 (P = 0.028) compared with the non-carriers. Moreover, per allele-C of rs17782313 was associated with 14% (2–32%) increased risk of type 2 diabetes, adjusting for BMI and other covariates. SNP rs1770833 was not significantly associated with either dietary intakes or obesity traits. In conclusion, the common SNP rs17782313 near MC4R gene was significantly associated with higher intakes of total energy and dietary fat. In addition, the SNP was related to greater long-term weight change and increased risk of diabetes in women.
doi:10.1093/hmg/ddn242
PMCID: PMC2572696  PMID: 18697794
24.  Obesity and gastroesophageal reflux disease and gastroesophageal reflux symptoms in children 
Background:
The association between body mass index (BMI) and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) has been extensively studied among adults but few studies have examined such association in children. Aims: 1) to determine the relationship between BMI in children and GERD, and 2) to use the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) values for BMI as a valid source for comparison.
Methods:
We identified two cohorts of children aged between two and 17 years who were seen at Texas Children’s Hospital (TCH). The first cohort consisted of children diagnosed with GERD based on upper gastrointestinal endoscopic and histologic evaluation, which was recorded in the Pediatric Endoscopic Database System-Clinical Outcomes Research Initiative (PEDS-CORI) at TCH. A diagnosis of GERD was based on the presence of erosive esophagitis or esophageal ulcers. Endoscopic reports that were incomplete or did not include demographic features, indications for endoscopy, or endoscopic findings were excluded. The second cohort consisted of all children with symptoms due to gastroesophageal reflux (GER) who received outpatient gastrointestinal (GI) consultation at TCH for any 9th revision of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases (ICD-9) code suggestive of GER. There was no overlap between the two cohorts as each child was indexed only once. Children with any comorbid illnesses were excluded.
Measurements:
The records for each child namely, age, gender, height, and weight were obtained on the same date as that of the diagnosis. Using the growth curves published by the NCHS, the gender/age specific weight-for-age Z-score (WAZ), and height-for-age Z-score (HAZ) were calculated. BMI was calculated as the weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared. Children having values greater than the 95th percentile for their age/gender-specific BMI were defined as obese.
Results:
In a one-year period (January 2006 to December 2006), a total of 627 children who attended the GI clinic at TCH were identified with GERD symptoms of whom 131 underwent endoscopic examination. The mean age was 9.7 years; 42% were females; 57% were Caucasians; 15% were African Americans, and 28% were Hispanics. Using National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data obtained from the same period as the the current data as a baseline for comparison, the BMI of children diagnosed with GERD was higher than the BMI reported by NHANES data. The final analysis of test proportion showed an overall proportion of 0.207 for the current study versus NHANES data (0.174). The current study also showed that more boys than girls have BMI greater than 95th percentile (24.7% vs 16.5%, respectively, OR = 1.7, 95% CI = 1.2–2.6, p = 0.04).
Conclusions:
Children diagnosed with GERD or those who presented with symptoms of GERD are more likely to be obese. The findings of this study show a possible association between obesity and GERD in children. Further understanding about the co-morbidity between GERD and obesity in children may have important implications on GERD management and treatment in children.
PMCID: PMC3108645  PMID: 21694824
gastroesophageal reflux disease; children; body mass index
25.  Genome-Wide Association of Body Fat Distribution in African Ancestry Populations Suggests New Loci 
Liu, Ching-Ti | Monda, Keri L. | Taylor, Kira C. | Lange, Leslie | Demerath, Ellen W. | Palmas, Walter | Wojczynski, Mary K. | Ellis, Jaclyn C. | Vitolins, Mara Z. | Liu, Simin | Papanicolaou, George J. | Irvin, Marguerite R. | Xue, Luting | Griffin, Paula J. | Nalls, Michael A. | Adeyemo, Adebowale | Liu, Jiankang | Li, Guo | Ruiz-Narvaez, Edward A. | Chen, Wei-Min | Chen, Fang | Henderson, Brian E. | Millikan, Robert C. | Ambrosone, Christine B. | Strom, Sara S. | Guo, Xiuqing | Andrews, Jeanette S. | Sun, Yan V. | Mosley, Thomas H. | Yanek, Lisa R. | Shriner, Daniel | Haritunians, Talin | Rotter, Jerome I. | Speliotes, Elizabeth K. | Smith, Megan | Rosenberg, Lynn | Mychaleckyj, Josyf | Nayak, Uma | Spruill, Ida | Garvey, W. Timothy | Pettaway, Curtis | Nyante, Sarah | Bandera, Elisa V. | Britton, Angela F. | Zonderman, Alan B. | Rasmussen-Torvik, Laura J. | Chen, Yii-Der Ida | Ding, Jingzhong | Lohman, Kurt | Kritchevsky, Stephen B. | Zhao, Wei | Peyser, Patricia A. | Kardia, Sharon L. R. | Kabagambe, Edmond | Broeckel, Ulrich | Chen, Guanjie | Zhou, Jie | Wassertheil-Smoller, Sylvia | Neuhouser, Marian L. | Rampersaud, Evadnie | Psaty, Bruce | Kooperberg, Charles | Manson, JoAnn E. | Kuller, Lewis H. | Ochs-Balcom, Heather M. | Johnson, Karen C. | Sucheston, Lara | Ordovas, Jose M. | Palmer, Julie R. | Haiman, Christopher A. | McKnight, Barbara | Howard, Barbara V. | Becker, Diane M. | Bielak, Lawrence F. | Liu, Yongmei | Allison, Matthew A. | Grant, Struan F. A. | Burke, Gregory L. | Patel, Sanjay R. | Schreiner, Pamela J. | Borecki, Ingrid B. | Evans, Michele K. | Taylor, Herman | Sale, Michele M. | Howard, Virginia | Carlson, Christopher S. | Rotimi, Charles N. | Cushman, Mary | Harris, Tamara B. | Reiner, Alexander P. | Cupples, L. Adrienne | North, Kari E. | Fox, Caroline S.
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(8):e1003681.
Central obesity, measured by waist circumference (WC) or waist-hip ratio (WHR), is a marker of body fat distribution. Although obesity disproportionately affects minority populations, few studies have conducted genome-wide association study (GWAS) of fat distribution among those of predominantly African ancestry (AA). We performed GWAS of WC and WHR, adjusted and unadjusted for BMI, in up to 33,591 and 27,350 AA individuals, respectively. We identified loci associated with fat distribution in AA individuals using meta-analyses of GWA results for WC and WHR (stage 1). Overall, 25 SNPs with single genomic control (GC)-corrected p-values<5.0×10−6 were followed-up (stage 2) in AA with WC and with WHR. Additionally, we interrogated genomic regions of previously identified European ancestry (EA) WHR loci among AA. In joint analysis of association results including both Stage 1 and 2 cohorts, 2 SNPs demonstrated association, rs2075064 at LHX2, p = 2.24×10−8 for WC-adjusted-for-BMI, and rs6931262 at RREB1, p = 2.48×10−8 for WHR-adjusted-for-BMI. However, neither signal was genome-wide significant after double GC-correction (LHX2: p = 6.5×10−8; RREB1: p = 5.7×10−8). Six of fourteen previously reported loci for waist in EA populations were significant (p<0.05 divided by the number of independent SNPs within the region) in AA studied here (TBX15-WARS2, GRB14, ADAMTS9, LY86, RSPO3, ITPR2-SSPN). Further, we observed associations with metabolic traits: rs13389219 at GRB14 associated with HDL-cholesterol, triglycerides, and fasting insulin, and rs13060013 at ADAMTS9 with HDL-cholesterol and fasting insulin. Finally, we observed nominal evidence for sexual dimorphism, with stronger results in AA women at the GRB14 locus (p for interaction = 0.02). In conclusion, we identified two suggestive loci associated with fat distribution in AA populations in addition to confirming 6 loci previously identified in populations of EA. These findings reinforce the concept that there are fat distribution loci that are independent of generalized adiposity.
Author Summary
Central obesity is a marker of body fat distribution and is known to have a genetic underpinning. Few studies have reported genome-wide association study (GWAS) results among individuals of predominantly African ancestry (AA). We performed a collaborative meta-analysis in order to identify genetic loci associated with body fat distribution in AA individuals using waist circumference (WC) and waist to hip ratio (WHR) as measures of fat distribution, with and without adjustment for body mass index (BMI). We uncovered 2 genetic loci potentially associated with fat distribution: LHX2 in association with WC-adjusted-for-BMI and at RREB1 for WHR-adjusted-for-BMI. Six of fourteen previously reported loci for waist in EA populations were significant in AA studied here (TBX15-WARS2, GRB14, ADAMTS9, LY86, RSPO3, ITPR2-SSPN). These findings reinforce the concept that there are loci for body fat distribution that are independent of generalized adiposity.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1003681
PMCID: PMC3744443  PMID: 23966867

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