Genetic analysis of dietary intake identifies new loci and functional links with metabolic traits

Nat Hum Behav. 2022 Jan;6(1):155-163. doi: 10.1038/s41562-021-01182-w. Epub 2021 Aug 23.


Dietary intake is a major contributor to the global obesity epidemic and represents a complex behavioural phenotype that is partially affected by innate biological differences. Here, we present a multivariate genome-wide association analysis of overall variation in dietary intake to account for the correlation between dietary carbohydrate, fat and protein in 282,271 participants of European ancestry from the UK Biobank (n = 191,157) and Cohorts for Heart and Aging Research in Genomic Epidemiology Consortium (n = 91,114), and identify 26 distinct genome-wide significant loci. Dietary intake signals map exclusively to specific brain regions and are enriched for genes expressed in specialized subtypes of GABAergic, dopaminergic and glutamatergic neurons. We identified two main clusters of genetic variants for overall variation in dietary intake that were differently associated with obesity and coronary artery disease. These results enhance the biological understanding of interindividual differences in dietary intake by highlighting neural mechanisms, supporting functional follow-up experiments and possibly providing new avenues for the prevention and treatment of prevalent complex metabolic diseases.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Diet*
  • Genetic Loci*
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Nuclear Proteins / genetics
  • Obesity / genetics*
  • Phenotype
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide


  • NSL1 protein, human
  • Nuclear Proteins