Obesity is a global health problem that is gradually affecting each continent of the world. Obesity is a heterogeneous disorder, and the biological causes of obesity are complex. The rapid increase in obesity prevalence during the past few decades is due to major societal changes (sedentary lifestyle, over-nutrition) but who becomes obese at the individual level is determined to a great extent by genetic susceptibility. In this review, we evidence that obesity is a strongly heritable disorder, and provide an update on the molecular basis of obesity. To date, nine loci have been involved in Mendelian forms of obesity and 58 loci contribute to polygenic obesity, and rare and common structural variants have been reliably associated with obesity. Most of the obesity genes remain to be discovered, but promising technologies, methodologies and the use of “deep phenotyping” lead to optimism to chip away at the ‘missing heritability’ of obesity in the near future. In the longer term, the genetic dissection of obesity will help to characterize disease mechanisms, provide new targets for drug design, and lead to an early diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of obesity.
Keywords: Candidate gene, childhood obesity, copy number variation, gwas, heritability, linkage, monogenic, polygenic, BMI, Polymorphism