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The genomics of childhood eating behaviours

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Moritz Herle, Mohamed Abdulkadir, Christopher Hubel, Diana Santos Ferreira, Rachel Bryant-Waugh, Ruth Loos, Cynthia M. Bulik, Bianca De Stavola, Nadia Micali

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)625-630
Number of pages6
JournalNature Human Behaviour
Issue number5
Early online date11 Jan 2021
E-pub ahead of print11 Jan 2021
PublishedMay 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: We are extremely grateful to all the families who took part in this study, the midwives for their help in recruiting them and the whole ALSPAC team, which includes interviewers, computer and laboratory technicians, clerical workers, research scientists, volunteers, managers, receptionists and nurses. This work was specifically funded by the UK Medical Research Council and the Medical Research Foundation (MR/R004803/1). N.M. and C.M.B. report funding from the National Institute of Mental Health (R21 MH115397). The UK Medical Research Council and Wellcome (grant no. 102215/2/13/2) and the University of Bristol provide core support for ALSPAC. A comprehensive list of funding is available on the ALSPAC website. D.S.F. works in a Unit that receives funds from the University of Bristol and the UK Medical Research Council (MC_UU_00011/6). M.H. is supported by a fellowship from the UK Medical Research Council (MR/ T027843/1). C.M.B. acknowledges funding from the Swedish Research Council (538-2013-8864), National Institute of Mental Health (R01 MH109528) and the Klarman Family Foundation. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish or preparation of the manuscript. Publisher Copyright: © 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited. Copyright: Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

King's Authors


Eating behaviours may be expressions of genetic risk for obesity and are potential antecedents of later eating disorders. However, childhood eating behaviours are heterogeneous and transient. Here we show associations between polygenic scores for body mass index (BMI-PGS) and anorexia nervosa (AN-PGS) with eating behaviour trajectories during the first 10 years of life using data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), n = 7,825. Results indicated that 1 s.d. increase in the BMI-PGS was associated with a 30-37% increased risk for early- and mid-childhood overeating. In contrast, 1 s.d. increase in BMI-PGS was associated with a 20% decrease in risk of persistent high levels of undereating and a 15% decrease in risk of persistent fussy eating. There was no evidence for a significant association between AN-PGS and eating behaviour trajectories. Our results support the notion that child eating behaviours share common genetic variants associated with BMI.

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