Environment and Gene Association With Obesity and Their Impact on Neurodegenerative and Neurodevelopmental Diseases

Front Neurosci. 2020 Aug 28:14:863. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2020.00863. eCollection 2020.


Obesity is a multifactorial disease in which environmental conditions and several genes play an important role in the development of this disease. Obesity is associated with neurodegenerative diseases (Alzheimer, Parkinson, and Huntington diseases) and with neurodevelopmental diseases (autism disorder, schizophrenia, and fragile X syndrome). Some of the environmental conditions that lead to obesity are physical activity, alcohol consumption, socioeconomic status, parent feeding behavior, and diet. Interestingly, some of these environmental conditions are shared with neurodegenerative and neurodevelopmental diseases. Obesity impairs neurodevelopment abilities as memory and fine-motor skills. Moreover, maternal obesity affects the cognitive function and mental health of the offspring. The common biological mechanisms involved in obesity and neurodegenerative/neurodevelopmental diseases are insulin resistance, pro-inflammatory cytokines, and oxidative damage, among others, leading to impaired brain development or cell death. Obesogenic environmental conditions are not the only factors that influence neurodegenerative and neurodevelopmental diseases. In fact, several genes implicated in the leptin-melanocortin pathway (LEP, LEPR, POMC, BDNF, MC4R, PCSK1, SIM1, BDNF, TrkB, etc.) are associated with obesity and neurodegenerative and neurodevelopmental diseases. Moreover, in the last decades, the discovery of new genes associated with obesity (FTO, NRXN3, NPC1, NEGR1, MTCH2, GNPDA2, among others) and with neurodegenerative or neurodevelopmental diseases (APOE, CD38, SIRT1, TNFα, PAI-1, TREM2, SYT4, FMR1, TET3, among others) had opened new pathways to comprehend the common mechanisms involved in these diseases. In conclusion, the obesogenic environmental conditions, the genes, and the interaction gene-environment would lead to a better understanding of the etiology of these diseases.

Keywords: environment; genes; neurodegenerative diseases; neurodevelopmental diseases; obesity.

Publication types

  • Review