Improving fruit and vegetable intake attenuates the genetic association with long-term weight gain

Am J Clin Nutr. 2019 Sep 1;110(3):759-768. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqz136.


Background: Whether changes in fruit and vegetable intake can modify the effect of genetic susceptibility to obesity on long-term changes in BMI and body weight are uncertain.

Objective: We analyzed the interactions of changes in total and specific fruit and vegetable intake with genetic susceptibility to obesity in relation to changes in BMI and body weight.

Methods: We calculated a genetic risk score on the basis of 77 BMI-associated loci to determine the genetic susceptibility to obesity, and examined the interactions of changes in total and specific fruit and vegetable intake with the genetic risk score on changes in BMI and body weight within five 4-y intervals over 20 y of follow-up in 8943 women from the Nurses' Health Study (NHS) and 5308 men from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (HPFS).

Results: In the combined cohorts, repeated 4-y BMI change per 10-risk allele increment was 0.09 kg/m2 among participants with the greatest decrease in total fruit and vegetable intake and -0.02 among those with the greatest increase in intake (P-interaction <0.001; corresponding weight change: 0.20 kg compared with -0.06 kg). The magnitude of decrease in BMI associated with increasing fruit and vegetable intake was more prominent among participants with high genetic risk than those with low risk. Reproducible interactions were observed for fruits and vegetables separately (both P-interaction <0.001). Based on similar nutritional content, the interaction effect was greatest for berries, citrus fruits, and green leafy vegetables, and the interaction pattern persisted regardless of the different fiber content or glycemic load of fruits and vegetables.

Conclusions: Genetically associated increased BMI and body weight could be mitigated by increasing fruit and vegetable intake, and the beneficial effect of improving fruit and vegetable intake on weight management was more pronounced in individuals with greater genetic susceptibility to obesity.

Keywords: fruits; genetic susceptibility; gene–diet interaction; vegetables; weight gain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Body Mass Index
  • Diet*
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Fruit*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Vegetables*
  • Weight Gain / genetics*
  • Weight Loss