Epigenetics of obesity: beyond the genome sequence

Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2015 Jul;18(4):361-6. doi: 10.1097/MCO.0000000000000179.


Purpose of review: After the study of the gene code as a trigger for obesity, epigenetic code has appeared as a novel tool in the diagnosis, prognosis and treatment of obesity, and its related comorbidities. This review summarizes the status of the epigenetic field associated with obesity, and the current epigenetic-based approaches for obesity treatment.

Recent findings: Thanks to technical advances, novel and key obesity-associated polymorphisms have been described by genome-wide association studies, but there are limitations with their predictive power. Epigenetics is also studied for disease association, which involves decoding of the genome information, transcriptional status and later phenotypes. Obesity could be induced during adult life by feeding and other environmental factors, and there is a strong association between obesity features and specific epigenetic patterns. These patterns could be established during early life stages, and programme the risk of obesity and its comorbidities during adult life. Furthermore, recent studies have shown that DNA methylation profile could be applied as biomarkers of diet-induced weight loss treatment.

Summary: High-throughput technologies, recently implemented for commercial genetic test panels, could soon lead to the creation of epigenetic test panels for obesity. Nonetheless, epigenetics is a modifiable risk factor, and different dietary patterns or environmental insights during distinct stages of life could lead to rewriting of the epigenetic profile.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA Methylation
  • Diet
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Epigenomics
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Gene-Environment Interaction
  • Genetic Association Studies
  • High-Throughput Screening Assays
  • Humans
  • Maternal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Obesity / genetics*
  • Phenotype