The genetics of obesity

Curr Diab Rep. 2010 Dec;10(6):498-505. doi: 10.1007/s11892-010-0153-z.


Obesity is a result of excess body fat accumulation. This excess is associated with adverse health effects such as CVD, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. The development of obesity has an evident environmental contribution, but as shown by heritability estimates of 40% to 70%, a genetic susceptibility component is also needed. Progress in understanding the etiology has been slow, with findings largely restricted to monogenic, severe forms of obesity. However, technological and analytical advances have enabled detection of more than 20 obesity susceptibility loci. These contain genes suggested to be involved in the regulation of food intake through action in the central nervous system as well as in adipocyte function. These results provide plausible biological pathways that may, in the future, be targeted as part of treatment or prevention strategies. Although the proportion of heritability explained by these genes is small, their detection heralds a new phase in understanding the etiology of common obesity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Mass Index
  • Eating / genetics
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / genetics
  • Humans
  • Obesity / genetics*