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BACKGROUND: The incidence of type 1 diabetes (T1D) is increasing globally. One hypothesis is that increasing childhood obesity rates may explain part of this increase, but, as T1D is rare, intervention studies are challenging to perform. The aim of this study was to assess this hypothesis with a Mendelian randomization approach that uses genetic variants as instrumental variables to test for causal associations. METHODS AND FINDINGS: We created a genetic instrument of 23 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with childhood adiposity in children aged 2-10 years. Summary-level association results for these 23 SNPs with childhood-onset (<17 years) T1D were extracted from a meta-analysis of genome-wide association study with 5,913 T1D cases and 8,828 reference samples. Using inverse-variance weighted Mendelian randomization analysis, we found support for an effect of childhood adiposity on T1D risk (odds ratio 1.32, 95% CI 1.06-1.64 per standard deviation score in body mass index [SDS-BMI]). A sensitivity analysis provided evidence of horizontal pleiotropy bias (p = 0.04) diluting the estimates towards the null. We therefore applied Egger regression and multivariable Mendelian randomization methods to control for this type of bias and found evidence in support of a role of childhood adiposity in T1D (odds ratio in Egger regression, 2.76, 95% CI 1.40-5.44). Limitations of our study include that underlying genes and their mechanisms for most of the genetic variants included in the score are not known. Mendelian randomization requires large sample sizes, and power was limited to provide precise estimates. This research has been conducted using data from the Early Growth Genetics (EGG) Consortium, the Genetic Investigation of Anthropometric Traits (GIANT) Consortium, the Tobacco and Genetics (TAG) Consortium, and the Social Science Genetic Association Consortium (SSGAC), as well as meta-analysis results from a T1D genome-wide association study. CONCLUSIONS: This study provides genetic support for a link between childhood adiposity and T1D risk. Together with evidence from observational studies, our findings further emphasize the importance of measures to reduce the global epidemic of childhood obesity and encourage mechanistic studies.

Original publication

DOI

10.1371/journal.pmed.1002362

Type

Journal article

Journal

PLoS Med

Publication Date

08/2017

Volume

14

Keywords

Adiposity, Child, Child, Preschool, Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1, Europe, Female, Genome-Wide Association Study, Humans, Male, Mendelian Randomization Analysis, Odds Ratio, Pediatric Obesity, Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide, Risk Factors