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Annu Rev Nutr. 2009;29:283-304. doi: 10.1146/annurev-nutr-080508-141124.

Genetic variation and effects on human eating behavior.

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Rudolf Magnus Institute of Neuroscience, Department of Neuroscience & Pharmacology, UMC Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands.


Feeding is a physiological process, influenced by genetic factors and the environment. In recent years, many studies have been performed to unravel the involvement of genetics in both eating behavior and its pathological forms: eating disorders and obesity. In this review, we provide a condensed introduction on the neurological aspects of eating and we describe the current status of research into the genetics of eating behavior, primarily focused on specific traits such as taste, satiation, and hunger. This is followed by an overview on the genetic studies done to unravel the heritable background of obesity and eating disorders. We examine the discussion currently taking place in the field of genetics of complex disorders and phenotypes on how to perform good and powerful studies, with the use of large-scale whole-genome association studies as one of the possible solutions. In the final part of this review, we give our view on the latest developments, including endophenotype approaches and animal studies. Studies of endophenotypes of eating behavior may help to identify core traits that are genetically influenced. Such studies would yield important knowledge on the underlying biological scaffold on which diagnostic criteria for eating disorders could be based and would provide information to influence eating behavior toward healthier living.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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