Food and Behaviour Research

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Investigating the association between body fat and depression via Mendelian randomization

Speed MS, Jefsen OH, Børglum AD, Speed D, Østergaard SD (2019) Transl Psychiatry.  9(1): 184. doi: 10.1038/s41398-019-0516-4. 

Web URL: Read this and related abstracts on PubMed here


Obesity and depression are major public health concerns that are both associated with substantial morbidity and mortality. There is a considerable body of literature linking obesity to the development of depression.

Recent studies using 
Mendelian randomization indicate that this relationship is causal. Most studies of the obesity-depression association have used body mass index as a measure of obesity. Bodymass index is defined as weight (measured in kilograms) divided by the square of height (meters) and therefore does not distinguish between the contributions of fat and nonfat to body weight.

To better understand the obesity-
depression association, we conduct a Mendelianrandomization study of the relationship between fat mass, nonfat mass, height, and depression, using genome-wide association study results from the UK Biobank (n = 332,000) and the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium (n = 480,000).

Our findings suggest that both 
fat mass and height (short stature) are causal risk factors for depression, while nonfat mass is not.

These results represent important new knowledge on the role of anthropometric measures in the etiology of 
depression. They also suggest that reducing fat mass will decrease the risk of depression, which lends further support to public health measures aimed at reducing the obesity epidemic.


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