Body Shape and Alzheimer's Disease: A Mendelian Randomization Analysis

Front Neurosci. 2019 Oct 10;13:1084. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2019.01084. eCollection 2019.


Obesity has been reported to be related to memory impairment and decline in cognitive function, possibly further leading to the development of Alzheimer's disease (AD). However, observational studies revealed both negative and positive associations between body shape (BS) and AD, thereby making it difficult to confirm causality due to residual confounds and reverse causation. Thus, using genome-wide association study summary data, two-sample Mendelian randomization (MR) analyses were applied to identify whether there exists a causal association between BS and AD. BS was measured using anthropometric traits (ATs) in this study, including body mass index (BMI), waist-to-hip ratio (WHR), waist-to-hip ratio adjusted by body mass index (WHRadjBMI), and waist circumference (WC). The associations of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) with each AT and AD were obtained separately from aggregated data from the Genetic Investigation of Anthropometric Traits (GIANT) consortium and International Genomics of Alzheimer's Project (IGAP) summary data (17,008 cases with AD and 37,154 controls). An inverse-variance weighted method was applied to obtain the overall causal estimate for multiple instrumental SNPs. The odds ratio (OR) [95% confidence interval (CI)] for AD risk per 1-SD difference in BMI was 1.04 (0.88, 1.23), in WHR was 1.01 (0.77, 1.33), in WHRadjBMI was 1.12 (0.89, 1.41), and in WC was 1.02 (0.82, 1.27). Furthermore, simulation analyses of survivor bias indicated the overall causal effect of BMI on risk of AD was not biased. In conclusion, the evidence from MR analyses showed no casual effect of BS on AD risk, which is inconsistent with the results from previous observational studies. The biological mechanism underlying the findings warrants further study.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; Mendelian randomization; body shape; simulation analysis; survivor bias.