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Parental feeding and childhood genetic risk for obesity: exploring hypothetical interventions with causal inference methods

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  • Moritz Herle
  • Andrew Pickles
  • Nadia Micali
  • Mohamed Abdulkadir
  • Bianca L. De Stavola
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Background: Parental-feeding behaviors are common intervention targets for childhood obesity, but often only deliver small changes. Childhood BMI is partly driven by genetic effects, and the extent to which parental-feeding interventions can mediate child genetic liability is not known. Here we aim to examine how potential interventions on parental-feeding behaviors can mitigate some of the association between child genetic liability and BMI in early adolescence, using causal inference methods. Methods: Data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children were used to estimate an interventional disparity measure for a child polygenic score for BMI (PGS-BMI) on BMI at 12 years. The approach compares counterfactual outcomes for different hypothetical interventions on parental-feeding styles applied when children are 10–11 years (n = 4248). Results are presented as adjusted total association (Adj-Ta) between genetic liability (PGS-BMI) and BMI at 12 years, versus the interventional disparity measure-direct effect (IDM-DE), which represents the association that would remain, had we intervened on parental-feeding under different scenarios. Results: For children in the top quintile of genetic liability, an intervention shifting parental feeding to the levels of children with lowest genetic risk, resulted in a difference of 0.81 kg/m2 in BMI at 12 years (Adj-Ta = 3.27, 95% CI: 3.04, 3.49; versus IDM-DE = 2.46, 95% CI: 2.24, 2.67). Conclusions: Findings suggest that parental-feeding interventions have the potential to buffer some of the genetic liability for childhood obesity. Further, we highlight a novel way to analyze potential interventions for health conditions only using secondary data analyses, by combining methodology from statistical genetics and social epidemiology.

TidsskriftInternational Journal of Obesity
Udgave nummer7
Sider (fra-til)1271-1279
Antal sider9
StatusUdgivet - jul. 2022
Eksternt udgivetJa

Bibliografisk note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by a fellowship from the Medical Research Council UK (MR/T027843/1) awarded to MH The UK Medical Research Council and Wellcome (Grant Ref: 217065/Z/19/Z) and the University of Bristol provide core support for ALSPAC. A comprehensive list of grants funding is available on the ALSPAC website ( ). GWAS data was generated by Sample Logistics and Genotyping Facilities at Wellcome Sanger Institute and LabCorp (Laboratory Corporation of America) using support from 23andMe. AP is partially supported by National Institute of Health Research NF-SI-0617-10120 and Biomedical Research Center at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and King’s College London. The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the UK NHS, NIHR, or the Department of Health and Social Care. The authors acknowledge use of the research computing facility at King’s College London, Rosalind ( ), which is delivered in partnership with the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centers at South London & Maudsley and Guy’s & St. Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trusts, and part-funded by capital equipment grants from the Maudsley Charity (award 980) and Guy’s & St. Thomas’ Charity (TR130505). The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR, King’s College London, or the Department of Health and Social Care.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).

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