Developmental Origins of Obesity - Genetic and Epigenetic Determinants

Benjamin Rokholm*, #, Camilla Schou Andersen#, Thorkild I.A. SØrensen
Institute of Preventive Medicine, Centre for Health and Society, Copenhagen University Hospital, DK-1357 Copenhagen, Denmark

© 2011 Rokholm et al.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Institute of Preventive Medicine, Øster Søgade 18,1, DK-1357 Copenhagen K, Denmark; Tel: + 45 3338 3817; Fax: +45 33 32 42 40; E-mail:
The two authors equally contributed to the manuscript.



Childhood obesity is a major public health concern. The importance of genes in development of obesity is evident from twin and family studies. Moreover, epigenetic events in early life may play an important role in obesity etiology.


We aimed to outline and discuss the role of genetic and epigenetic influences on development of obesity in early life from around birth and into adolescence.


We included a series of interesting contributions on the area. First, the topic was addressed on the relative influence of genes and environment. Next, we turned to the significance of epigenetic events.


Genetic influences play an important role in individual differences in body fatness throughout childhood and adolescence, with an increasing heritability with age. In addition, environmental factors can influence the epigenetic regulation, making the individual more susceptible to develop obesity.


Our knowledge of genetic and epigenetic contributions to obesity development has increased dramatically during the last century. Future studies and technological advnces, will undoubtedly reveal even more complicated pathways that have to be considered when trying to prevent the dramatic worldwide increase in obesity.

Keywords: Genetic factors, epigenetic regulation, obesity, childhood.