The Gene–environment interactions and how affects to BMI and obesity

ECHO IP Alberto Palloni jointly with ECHO collaborators Hiram Beltrán-Sánchez, Mary McEniry and Yiyue Huangfu has recently published a new article in the journal PNAS Nexus where they investigate the demographic and population health implications of gene–environment interactions (GxE) in the case of body mass index (BMI) and obesity.

The relations between obesity, chronic illnesses, and disability are hugely consequential. It has been estimated, for example, that in 2010–2012, the US medical costs of obesity hovered around a staggering 150 billion per year (2014 US dollars) and could have been as large as 210 billion. Most of this spending is associated with the treatment of T2D, other closely associated chronic conditions, and disability.

Several impacts on the prevalence of obesity

In the work, in which, in addition to the CSIC, scientists from the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) and the University of Wisconsin participate, the empirical estimates indicate that the magnitude of known estimates of GxE has some impacts on the prevalence of obesity. However, its aggregate impact on two demographic outcomes of importance in population health is small. GxE effects are relevant only to the small fraction of individuals in the upper extreme of the genetic risk distribution and only when estimates of GxE are set to the maximum value we were able to retrieve from past studies. We also show that the impact on a key parameter for health policymaking, namely, the duration of life with a chronic condition or disability, is very small. If the magnitude of GxE effects is as documented in recent research (or less), then GxE effects are too small to influence health outcomes that demographers and population health scientists are interested in.

Continue reading the CSIC’s Press Release (in Spanish)