Gene and environment interaction: Is the differential susceptibility hypothesis relevant for obesity?


AuthorsMollea, R.D., Fatemia, H., Dagherb, A., Levitanc, R.D., Silveirad, P.P., Dubé, L.

PublicationNeuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews


The differential susceptibility model states that a given genetic variant is associated with an increased risk of pathology in negative environments but greater than average resilience in enriched ones. While this theory was first implemented in psychiatric-genetic research, it may also help us to unravel the complex ways that genes and environments interact to influence feeding behavior and obesity. We reviewed evidence on gene vs. environment interactions that influence obesity development, aiming to support the applicability of the differential susceptibility model for this condition, and propose that various environmental “layers” relevant for human development should be considered when bearing the differential susceptibility model in mind. Mother-child relationship, socioeconomic status and individual’s response are important modifiers of BMI and food intake when interacting with gene variants, “for better and for worse”. While only a few studies to date have investigated obesity outcomes using this approach, we propose that the differential susceptibility hypothesis is in fact highly applicable to the study of genetic and environmental influences on feeding behavior and obesity risk. 

Read full article: Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, December 23, 2016