Can genomics help tackle the obesity epidemic?

The work

Our work on obesity includes a critical review of the research into the genetics of obesity, the public health benefit and clinical utility of whole genome sequencing for obese patients. In the resulting report, The Genomics of Obesity published in 2013, we discuss if and how genomics could be integrated into existing NHS care pathways and set out our findings and recommendations for policy makers.

The motivation

Obesity is a growing health problem worldwide and linked to some of the leading causes of death and ill health in the UK, including diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. As well as health risks, obesity has a significant economic impact. If its prevalence continues it is expected that cost could total £49 billion per year by 2050.

Current government policy focuses on the environmental causes of obesity; we wanted to know whether there were public health benefits to a change in policy that incorporated genomics.

What we did

  • Conducted a focused literature review of the current state of research into the genetic causes of monogenic and polygenic obesity
  • Analysed the potential benefits and utility of testing including the ethical, social and legal implications, and considered how it could be incorporated into existing NHS care pathways
  • Developed a set of clear recommendations for the utilisation and regulation of genetic testing for obesity
  • Made our findings and recommendations freely available in the report, The Genomics of Obesity , along with a briefing note for policymakers