Is BMI Heritable? Study Finds Teen Obesity Increases Offspring’s Risk

by [email protected]

Obesity in teenagers has far-reaching health impacts. From affecting both physical and mental well-being to raising the risk of chronic diseases, the repercussions are extensive.

The researchers have now found that obesity in adolescence can also affect the risk of the same in future generations.

In a recent study published in the Jama Network, researchers investigated the heritability of the body mass index across generations within families. The results revealed that children born to parents who were obese at age 17 had a 77% greater likelihood of developing obesity at the same age.

“In this study, the weight status of parents at 17 years of age was associated with obesity risk for both female and male offspring, emphasizing that parental factors may influence the next generation's health outcomes,” the researchers wrote.

The large-scale study utilized data from mandatory medical screenings conducted before compulsory military service in Israel. The team compared the BMI of 447,883 adolescents at age 17 with that of their parents at the same age and made some interesting findings.

Children, whose both parents were obese during their teenage years faced an elevated risk of developing obesity themselves. While children born to parents who were obese at age 17 had a 77% risk of being obese themselves at the same age, children born to those who had a healthy weight at 17 had only a 15% chance of being obese.

“Our investigation revealed a noteworthy correlation of 0.386 between mid-parental and offspring BMI, indicating a moderate association. The estimation of narrow-sense heritability for the additive genetic variance in BMI stood at 39%,” the researchers wrote.

Meanwhile, the researchers noted that when both parents were severely underweight at age 17, their offspring had just a 3.3% probability of being obese at the same age. They also discovered that daughters were generally more prone to obesity under these conditions compared to sons. This trend persisted even when only the mother had been obese as a teen.

The researchers believe their findings are a major advancement in understanding how genetics affect body weight during adolescence. “The links established between parental and offspring obesity, particularly during late adolescence, provide insights for understanding the early origins of obesity,” they noted.

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