Application of Genetic Epidemiology to Understanding Pediatric Obesity
The prevalence of overweight in children and adolescents has increased significantly over the last two decades in the United States, especially in families of lower social status and ethnic minorities (Ogden, Flegal, Carroll, & Johnson, 2002). Childhood obesity has also been increasing globally due to rapid changes in diet and physical activity with economic development, generally referred to as the nutrition transition (Popkin & Gordon-Larsen, 2004). While the temporal increases in childhood overweight are ultimately attributable to macrolevel changes in childhood energy budgets—such as family socioeconomic factors, food quality and pricing, the built environment, and organized and unstructured activity patterns—genetic variation very likely plays an important role in increasing susceptibility to childhood obesity. Because of the rise in childhood obesity in the United States and throughout the world, there is a clear need for genetic studies of pediatric obesity among representative families and the detection of more subtle genetic influences that operate in interaction with the modern obesogenic childhood environment.
The purpose of this chapter is to provide a concise review of genetic epidemiology studies of body size, weight, and obesity among children and adolescents. Although most of the published studies in this age group focus on uncommon monogenic obesity syndromes, we emphasize the concept of genetic susceptibility and the multifactorial determination of pediatric obesity, and thus are somewhat selective in the papers we describe. The review suggests that research is just beginning to assess the complex nature of genetic predispositions to childhood obesity, and that future pediatric obesity studies will detect increasingly subtle genetic influences, gene and environment interactions, and gene-gene interactions.
KeywordsQuantitative Trait Locus Childhood Obesity European Ancestry Genetic Epidemiology Pediatric Obesity
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