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Epigenetics of obesity

beyond the genome sequence

Cordero, Paula; Li, Jiaweia; Oben, Jude A.a,b

Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care: July 2015 - Volume 18 - Issue 4 - p 361–366
doi: 10.1097/MCO.0000000000000179
GENES AND CELL METABOLISM: Edited by Paulo Ivo Homem de Bittencourt Jr. and Philip Newsholme

Purpose of review After the study of the gene code as a trigger for obesity, epigenetic code has appeared as a novel tool in the diagnosis, prognosis and treatment of obesity, and its related comorbidities. This review summarizes the status of the epigenetic field associated with obesity, and the current epigenetic-based approaches for obesity treatment.

Recent findings Thanks to technical advances, novel and key obesity-associated polymorphisms have been described by genome-wide association studies, but there are limitations with their predictive power. Epigenetics is also studied for disease association, which involves decoding of the genome information, transcriptional status and later phenotypes. Obesity could be induced during adult life by feeding and other environmental factors, and there is a strong association between obesity features and specific epigenetic patterns. These patterns could be established during early life stages, and programme the risk of obesity and its comorbidities during adult life. Furthermore, recent studies have shown that DNA methylation profile could be applied as biomarkers of diet-induced weight loss treatment.

Summary High-throughput technologies, recently implemented for commercial genetic test panels, could soon lead to the creation of epigenetic test panels for obesity. Nonetheless, epigenetics is a modifiable risk factor, and different dietary patterns or environmental insights during distinct stages of life could lead to rewriting of the epigenetic profile.

aInstitute for Liver and Digestive Health, University College London

bDepartment of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Guy's and St Thomas’ Hospital, NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK

Correspondence to Paul Cordero, Institute for Liver and Digestive Health, University College London, Royal Free Hospital, NHS Foundation Trust, Rowland Hill Street, London NW3 2PF, UK. Tel: +44 2074332894 ext. 32894; e-mail:

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