The Role of Epigenetic Regulation in the Development of Obesity: A Comprehensive Review

Authors:  Brendan Scot Tanner and Cristina Hanganu-Bresch
Date:  April, 2013


1 in 6 children and 1 in 3 adults in the United States are obese. Estimated costs in 2010 relating to obesity exceed $300 billion. Although the etiology of obesity may be well characterized, the advent of the epigenome has increased the complexity of pinpointing causes of obesity. Ovine and murine models show that maternal overnutrition and maternal undernutrition are implicated in epigenetic dysregulation of endogenous energy-balance mechanisms. Furthermore, retrospective analyses of the Great Dutch Winter Famine and the Great Chinese Famine show an increased risk of obesity and metabolic syndrome in offspring affected by the famines. Studying the epigenetic alterations associated with obesity could afford changes in maternal dietary guidelines, spur new global and individualized therapies for obesity, and could allow nations to obtain fiscal benefits from decreased costs of obesity management. Obesity is a trans-generational disease with a capacity to affect many individuals worldwide.