Current obesity levels are linked to gene-environment interactions. The behavioural susceptibility theory proposes that genetic susceptibility to obesity is partly attributable to appetitive phenotypes. The identification of children with high-risk appetite characteristics, such as high responsiveness to external food cues or lower sensitivity to internal satiety signals (while they are still at a healthy weight), who have an increased likelihood of becoming obese in the future, provides evidence-based data to develop novel insights to tackle the obesity epidemic.
This project aims to understand the contribution of appetite-related eating behaviours as drivers for excessive adiposity-gain across the life span, specifically within the context of gene-environment interactions. The research designed to meet this aim is organized into three different work packages (WP): WP1: population-based evidence; WP2: experimental data; WP3: results dissemination.
Added value will be provided through extensive data collected within large prospective birth cohorts (Generation XXI and BiTwin, which provides a natural experiment to estimate the relative contribution of genes and environments to trait variation) permitting mechanisms to be disentangled using robust methodological approaches and a longitudinal design, able to reach middle childhood into early adolescence. This improves upon current knowledge, largely obtained through cross-sectional studies or focused only in early life. The predictors of appetitive traits and the importance of genetic versus shared environmental influences on child weight will also be explored. This project will provide evidence of the cut-off values of appetitive behaviours for obesity risk and the predictive value of these appetitive traits. Ultimately, this project seeks to search, collate and compile recent evidence including the new findings arising from this research in health educational materials and promote dissemination to parents and stakeholders.
Recognised experts with extensive experience in this field and specific expertise in cohort studies (U.Porto), in biological mechanisms related with appetite from a clinician, experimental perspective (U.Porto) and in ingestive behaviours and gene-environment interactions (U.Leeds) will be involved. This synergetic collaboration will add value in optimising diverse skill sets, applying adequate methodological approaches to the specific scientific questions.
Funding approved by the Competitiveness and Internationalization Operational Program in its FEDER component, by the Foundation for Science and Technology, I.P.