15 genes impacting obesity have different effects as we age

Adult body size and body shape differ substantially between men and women and change over time. More than hundred genetic variants that influence body mass index (measure of body size) or waist-to-hip ratio (measure of body shape) have been identified. While there is evidence that some genetic loci affect body shape differently in men than in women, little is known about whether genetic effects differ in older compared to younger adults, and whether such changes differ between men and women. Therefore, we conducted a systematic genome-wide search, including 114 studies (>320,000 individuals), to specifically identify genetic loci with age- and or sex-dependent effects on body size and shape. We identified 15 loci of which the effect on BMI was different in older compared to younger adults, whereas we found no evidence for loci with different effects in men compared to women. The opposite was seen for body shape as we identified 44 loci of which the effect on waist-to-hip ratio differed between men and women, but no difference between younger and older adults were observed. Our observations may provide new insights into the biology that underlies weight change with age or the sexually dimorphism of body shape. The findings have been published in this month’s PLoS Genetics.