Comprehensive genomic analysis of dietary habits in UK Biobank identifies hundreds of genetic associations

Nat Commun. 2020 Mar 19;11(1):1467. doi: 10.1038/s41467-020-15193-0.


Unhealthful dietary habits are leading risk factors for life-altering diseases and mortality. Large-scale biobanks now enable genetic analysis of traits with modest heritability, such as diet. We perform a genomewide association on 85 single food intake and 85 principal component-derived dietary patterns from food frequency questionnaires in UK Biobank. We identify 814 associated loci, including olfactory receptor associations with fruit and tea intake; 136 associations are only identified using dietary patterns. Mendelian randomization suggests our top healthful dietary pattern driven by wholemeal vs. white bread consumption is causally influenced by factors correlated with education but is not strongly causal for coronary artery disease or type 2 diabetes. Overall, we demonstrate the value in complementary phenotyping approaches to complex dietary datasets, and the utility of genomic analysis to understand the relationships between diet and human health.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Biological Specimen Banks*
  • Eating
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Genetic Association Studies*
  • Genetic Loci
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Genomics*
  • Humans
  • Inheritance Patterns / genetics
  • Mendelian Randomization Analysis
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide / genetics
  • Principal Component Analysis
  • Receptors, Odorant / metabolism
  • Risk Factors
  • United Kingdom


  • Receptors, Odorant