Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California.
Background: The relationship between genetic risk for body mass index (BMI) and weight control behaviors remains unknown. The objectives of this study were to determine the association between genetic risk for BMI and weight control behaviors in young adults, and to examine actual measured BMI as a potential mediator variable.
Method: We analyzed data from three data collection waves of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health. The BMI polygenic score (PGS) was based on published genome-wide association studies for BMI. BMI was collected at 11-18 years and 18-26 years. Weight control behaviors included self-reported: (a) weight loss behaviors (dieting, vomiting, fasting/skipping meals, diet pills, laxatives, or diuretic use to lose weight) and (b) weight gain behaviors (eating more or different foods than normal, taking supplements to gain weight).
Results: Among 4,397 participants, the BMI PGS was associated with higher odds of weight loss behaviors in females (OR 1.24, 95% CI 1.14-1.35) and males (OR 1.43, 95% CI 1.26-1.62), and this association was mediated by BMI (indirect effect 0.04, 95% CI 0.03-0.05 in females and 0.03, 95% CI 0.03-0.04 in males). The BMI PGS was associated with lower odds of weight gain behaviors in females and males, which was also mediated by actual BMI.
Conclusions: The BMI PGS was associated with weight loss behaviors in both males and females, and this association was mediated by actual measured BMI. Clinical interventions to prevent high BMI, particularly for individuals with genetic risk, may also prevent subsequent development of potentially unhealthy weight loss behaviors.
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