Genomic analysis of diet composition finds novel loci and associations with health and lifestyle

the 23 and Me Research Team

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We conducted genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of relative intake from the macronutrients fat, protein, carbohydrates, and sugar in over 235,000 individuals of European ancestries. We identified 21 unique, approximately independent lead SNPs. Fourteen lead SNPs are uniquely associated with one macronutrient at genome-wide significance (P < 5×10-8), while five of the 21 lead SNPs reach suggestive significance (P < 1×10-5) for at least one other macronutrient. While the phenotypes are genetically correlated, each phenotype carries a partially unique genetic architecture. Relative protein intake exhibits the strongest relationships with poor health, including positive genetic associations with obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease (r_g ≈ 0.15-0.5). In contrast, relative carbohydrate and sugar intake have negative genetic correlations with waist circumference, waist-hip ratio, and neighborhood deprivation (|r_g | ≈ 0.1-0.3) and positive genetic correlations with physical activity (r_g ≈ 0.1 and 0.2). Relative fat intake has no consistent pattern of genetic correlations with poor health but has a negative genetic correlation with educational attainment (r_g ≈- 0.1). Although our analyses do not allow us to draw causal conclusions, we find no evidence of negative health consequences associated with relative carbohydrate, sugar, or fat intake. However, our results are consistent with the hypothesis that relative protein intake plays a role in the etiology of metabolic dysfunction.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
JournalMolecular Psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - 11 May 2020


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