Genomic analysis of diet composition finds novel loci and associations with health and lifestyle

23andMe Research Team, EPIC- InterAct Consortium, LifeLines Cohort Study

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    We conducted genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of relative intake from the macronutrients fat, protein, carbohydrates, and sugar in over 235,000 individuals of European ancestries. We identified 21 unique, approximately independent lead SNPs. Fourteen lead SNPs are uniquely associated with one macronutrient at genome-wide significance (P < 5 × 10−8), while five of the 21 lead SNPs reach suggestive significance (P < 1 × 10−5) for at least one other macronutrient. While the phenotypes are genetically correlated, each phenotype carries a partially unique genetic architecture. Relative protein intake exhibits the strongest relationships with poor health, including positive genetic associations with obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease (rg ≈ 0.15–0.5). In contrast, relative carbohydrate and sugar intake have negative genetic correlations with waist circumference, waist-hip ratio, and neighborhood deprivation (|rg| ≈ 0.1–0.3) and positive genetic correlations with physical activity (rg ≈ 0.1 and 0.2). Relative fat intake has no consistent pattern of genetic correlations with poor health but has a negative genetic correlation with educational attainment (rg ≈−0.1). Although our analyses do not allow us to draw causal conclusions, we find no evidence of negative health consequences associated with relative carbohydrate, sugar, or fat intake. However, our results are consistent with the hypothesis that relative protein intake plays a role in the etiology of metabolic dysfunction.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)2056-2069
    Number of pages14
    JournalMolecular Psychiatry
    Issue number6
    StatePublished - Jun 2021


    • Body Mass Index
    • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2/genetics
    • Diet
    • Genome-Wide Association Study
    • Genomics
    • Humans
    • Life Style

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Psychiatry and Mental health
    • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
    • Molecular Biology


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