Genetic Link Between Obesity Traits, Depression With Atypical Features

overweight man eating chips
overweight man eating chips
Major depressive disorder with atypical features was shown to share genetic factors with obesity-related traits.

Major depressive disorder (MDD) with atypical features was shown to share genetic factors with obesity-related traits, according to the results of a recent study published in JAMA Psychiatry.

Using data sets from the Psychiatric Genomic Consortium, participants with MDD (n=11,837) and control participants (n=14,791) with genome-wide genotype data were enrolled. Participants with MDD were stratified into subgroups based on whether appetite and/or weight symptoms, as defined by the 4th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, increased or decreased during an active episode. The genome association between body mass index (BMI) and depressive phenotypes was evaluated.

More participants with MDD had decreased appetite and/or weight (45.2%) than had increased appetite and/or weight (15.8%).

The researchers estimated that 10% of the heritability could be attributed to common genetic variants among the 2 depressive phenotype subgroups.

A strong, positive genetic correlation between BMI and the increased appetite and/or weight subgroup (0.53; P <.001) was noted. Conversely, an inverse correlation between BMI and decreased appetite and/or weight was reported (-0.28; P =.06).

The decreased appetite and/or weight subgroup was associated with an increased polygenic risk for higher BMI (odds ratio [OR] 1.18; P <.001), levels of C-reactive protein (OR 1.08; P <.001), and leptin (OR 1.09; P <.001).

Related Articles

In an interview with Psychiatry Advisor, Yuri Milaneschi, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatric epidemiology at the VU University Medical Center in the Netherlands and lead investigator, explained that the results suggest MDD is highly heterogeneous, and “dissection of this heterogeneity and development of treatments tailored for specific subgroups of patients may benefit those affected by depression — one of the higher public health burdens in our societies.”


Milaneschi Y, Lamers F, Peyrot WJ, et al. CHARGE Inflammation Working Group and the Major Depressive Disorder Working Group of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium. Genetic association of major depression with atypical features and obesity-related immunometabolic dysregulations [published online October 18, 2017]. JAMA Psychiatry. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2017.3016