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Heterogeneity in Obesity: Genetic Basis and Metabolic Consequences


Purpose of Review

Our review provides a brief summary of the most recent advances towards the identification of the genetic basis of specific aspects of obesity and the quantification of their consequences on health. We also highlight the most promising avenues to be explored in the future.

Recent Findings

While obesity has been demonstrated to lead to adverse cardio-metabolic consequences, the determinants of inter-individual variability remain largely unknown. The elucidation of the molecular underpinnings of this relationship is hampered by the extremely heterogeneous nature of obesity as a human trait. Recent technological advances have facilitated a more in-depth characterization of body composition at large-scale.


At the pace of current data acquisition and resolution, it is realistic to improve characterization of obesity and to advise individuals based on detailed body composition combined with tissue-specific molecular signatures. Individualized predictions of health implications would enable more personalized and effective public health interventions.

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Fig. 1


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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Zoltán Kutalik was supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (310030_189147). Iris M Heid was supported by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF 01ER1507).

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Correspondence to Zoltán Kutalik.

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Sulc, J., Winkler, T.W., Heid, I.M. et al. Heterogeneity in Obesity: Genetic Basis and Metabolic Consequences. Curr Diab Rep 20, 1 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11892-020-1285-4

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  • Obesity genetics
  • GWAS
  • Obesity subtypes
  • Metabolic disease
  • Mendelian randomization