Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

The Mendelian randomization approach exploits genetic variants to improve causal inference when using observational data. The authors examined the relation between long-term obesity and common mental disorders (CMD) by utilizing the known relation between fat mass and obesity-associated (FTO) genotype and body mass index (BMI; weight (kg)/height (m)(2)). Data collection in 2,981 men and 1,164 women (mean age at baseline = 44 years) from the Whitehall II Study (London, United Kingdom) included 4 repeated examinations of BMI and CMD over a 19-year follow-up period (1985-2004), plus an assessment of FTO polymorphism rs1421085. In men, there was an association of FTO genotype with all measures of adiposity (mean BMI, number of times obese, and, in nonobese persons, number of times overweight). FTO was also associated with CMD in men. This was independent of adiposity, thus potentially violating the exclusion restriction assumption. According to both conventional and FTO-instrumented regression analysis, measurement of obesity was associated with an increased occurrence of CMD. In the FTO-instrumented analysis only, higher BMI and overweight were also associated with CMD. In women, there was no link between FTO and adiposity. Mendelian randomization analyses supported the status of long-term obesity as a risk factor for CMD in men-a finding that should be interpreted cautiously because the function of the FTO gene is unknown.

Original publication




Journal article


Am J Epidemiol

Publication Date





421 - 429


Adult, Alpha-Ketoglutarate-Dependent Dioxygenase FTO, Anxiety, Body Mass Index, Causality, Chi-Square Distribution, Depression, Female, Follow-Up Studies, Genotype, Humans, London, Male, Middle Aged, Obesity, Overweight, Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide, Proteins, Regression Analysis, Risk Factors, Sex Factors, Surveys and Questionnaires