Intended for healthcare professionals


Diet, genes, and obesity

BMJ 2018; 360 doi: (Published 10 January 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;360:k7
  1. Louisa J Ells, reader in public health and obesity1,
  2. Alessandro Demaio, medical officer2,
  3. Nathalie Farpour-Lambert, program director3
  1. 1School of Health and Social Care, Teesside University, Middlesbrough, UK
  2. 2Department of Nutrition for Health and Development, World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland
  3. 3Obesity Prevention and Care Program Contrepoids, University Hospitals of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland
  1. Correspondence to: L Ells l.ells{at}

Genetic predisposition to obesity is no barrier to successful weight management

Globally, the prevalence of obesity has tripled since 1975, with 671 million adults and 124 million young people (5-19 years) estimated to be affected in 2016.1 Given the serious associated health and economic consequences of obesity,234 finding effective weight management strategies is both a national and a global priority.56

Although behavioural interventions that improve dietary intake and increase physical activity can be effective in reducing body weight in adults, long term efficacy is often limited,78 and it can be tempting to attribute failure to a genetic predisposition. Such discussions risk promoting a perception that policies and interventions to tackle obesity are futile, leading to loss of commitment and associated resources. Family, twin, and adoption studies show a moderate to high heritability for obesity,9 but monogenic causes of obesity are rare. Genetic predisposition in most people is polygenic. Important analyses of environment-gene interactions clearly show the detrimental effect of our obesogenic environment.910

The linked …

View Full Text

Log in

Log in through your institution


* For online subscription