Genomic insights into early-onset obesity
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The biological causes of childhood obesity are complex. Environmental factors, such as massive marketing campaigns for food leading to over-nutrition and snacking and the decline in physical activity, have undoubtedly contributed to the increased prevalence of overweight and obesity in children, but these cannot be considered as the only causes. Susceptibility to obesity is also determined to a great extent by genetic factors. Furthermore, molecular mechanisms involved in the regulation of gene expression, such as epigenetic mechanisms, can increase the risk of developing early-onset obesity. There is evidence that early-onset obesity is a heritable disorder, and a range of genetic factors have recently been shown to cause monogenic, syndromic and polygenic forms of obesity, in some cases interacting with environmental exposures. Modifications of the transcriptome can lead to increased adiposity, and the gut microbiome has recently been shown to be key to the genesis of obesity. These new genomic discoveries complement previous knowledge on the development of early-onset obesity and provide new perspectives for research on the complex molecular and physiological mechanisms involved in this disease. Personalized preventive strategies and genomic medicine may become possible in the near future.
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