Background: Previous studies have suggested that a variant in the melanocortin-4 receptor (MC4R) gene is important in protecting against common obesity. Larger studies are needed, however, to confirm this relation.
Methods: We assessed the association between the V103I polymorphism in the MC4R gene and obesity in three UK population based cohort studies, totalling 8304 individuals. We also did a meta-analysis of relevant studies, involving 10 975 cases and 18 588 controls, to place our findings in context.
Finding: In an analysis of all studies, individuals carrying the isoleucine allele had an 18% (95% confidence interval 4-30%, P=0.015) lower risk of obesity compared with non-carriers. There was no heterogeneity among studies and no apparent publication bias.
Interpretation: This study confirms that the V103I polymorphism protects against human obesity at a population level. As such it provides proof of principle that specific gene variants may, at least in part, explain susceptibility and resistance to common forms of human obesity. A better understanding of the mechanisms underlying this association will help determine whether changes in MC4R activity have therapeutic potential.