Understanding Gene-Lifestyle Interaction in Obesity: The Role of Mediation versus Moderation.

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Lifestyle Genom, Volume 15, Issue 2, p.67-76 (2022)


Appetite, Feeding Behavior, Genetic Predisposition to Disease, Humans, Life Style, Obesity


<p><b>BACKGROUND: </b>Obesity results from complex interactions between genetic susceptibility to weight gain and poor eating and lifestyle behaviors. The approach that has been traditionally used in genetics to investigate gene-environment/lifestyle interaction in obesity is based on the concept of moderation or effect modification. Another approach called mediation analysis can be used to investigate gene-environment interaction in obesity. The objective of this review article is to explain the differences between the concepts of moderation and mediation and summarize the studies that have used mediation analysis to support the role of eating or lifestyle behaviors as putative mediators of genetic susceptibility to obesity.</p><p><b>SUMMARY: </b>Moderation is used to determine whether the effect of an exposure (genes associated with obesity) on an outcome (obesity phenotype) differs in magnitude and/or direction across the spectrum of environmental exposure. Mediation analysis is used to assess the extent to which the effect of the exposure on the outcome is explained by a given set of hypothesized mediators with the aim of understanding how the exposure could lead to the outcome. In comparison with moderation, relatively few studies used mediation analyses to investigate gene-environment interaction in obesity. Most studies found evidence that traits related to appetite or eating behaviors partly mediated genetic susceptibility to obesity in either children or adults.</p><p><b>KEY MESSAGES: </b>Moderation and mediation represent two complementary approaches to investigate gene-environment interaction in obesity and address different research questions pertaining to the cause-effect relationship between genetic susceptibility to obesity and various obesity outcomes. More studies relying on mediation are needed to better understand the role of eating and lifestyle habits in mediating genetic susceptibility to obesity.</p>

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