The Role of Genetic Variation of BMI, Body Composition, and Fat Distribution for Mental Traits and Disorders: A Look-Up and Mendelian Randomization Study

Front Genet. 2020 Apr 21;11:373. doi: 10.3389/fgene.2020.00373. eCollection 2020.


Anthropometric traits and mental disorders or traits are known to be associated clinically and to show genetic overlap. We aimed to identify genetic variants with relevance for mental disorders/traits and either (i) body mass index (or obesity), (ii) body composition, (and/or) (iii) body fat distribution. We performed a look-up analysis of 1,005 genome-wide significant SNPs for BMI, body composition, and body fat distribution in 15 mental disorders/traits. We identified 40 independent loci with one or more SNPs fulfilling our threshold significance criterion (P < 4.98 × 10-5) for the mental phenotypes. The majority of loci was associated with schizophrenia, educational attainment, and/or intelligence. Fewer associations were found for bipolar disorder, neuroticism, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, major depressive disorder, depressive symptoms, and well-being. Unique associations with measures of body fat distribution adjusted for BMI were identified at five loci only. To investigate the potential causality between body fat distribution and schizophrenia, we performed two-sample Mendelian randomization analyses. We found no causal effect of body fat distribution on schizophrenia and vice versa. In conclusion, we identified 40 loci which may contribute to genetic overlaps between mental disorders/traits and BMI and/or shape related phenotypes. The majority of loci identified for body composition overlapped with BMI loci, thus suggesting pleiotropic effects.

Keywords: GWAS; Mendelian randomization; abdominal obesity; body composition; body mass index; genetic overlap; mental disorders; mental traits.