Using genetics to disentangle the complex relationship between food choices and health status

Nicola Pirastu, et al.

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Nov 08, 2019
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Received Date: 18th October 19

Nicola Pirastu, Ciara McDonnell, Eryk Jan Grzeszkowiak, Ninon Mounier, Fumiaki Imamura, Felix R. Day, Jie Zheng, Nele Taba, Maria Pina Concas, Linda Repetto, Katherine A Kentistou, Antonietta Robino, Tonu Esko,  Peter K Joshi, Krista Fischer, Ken K. Ong, Tom R Gaunt, Zoltan Kutalik, John Perry, James F Wilson

Despite food choices being one of the most important factors influencing health, efforts to identify individual food groups and dietary patterns that cause disease have been challenging, with traditional nutritional epidemiological approaches plagued by biases and confounding. After identifying 302 (289 novel) individual genetic determinants of dietary intake in 445,779 individuals in the UK Biobank study, we develop a statistical genetics framework that enables us, for the first time, to directly assess the impact of food choices on health outcomes. We show that the biases which affect observational studies extend also to GWAS, genetic correlations and causal inference through genetics, which can be corrected by applying our methods. Finally, by applying Mendelian Randomization approaches to the corrected results we identify some of the first robust causal associations between eating patterns and risks of cancer, heart disease and obesity, distinguishing between the effects of specific foods or dietary patterns.

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This is an abstract of a preprint hosted on an independent third party site. It has not been peer reviewed but is currently under consideration at Nature Communications.

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