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Depression and Obesity: Is There a Genetic Link?

It’s clear that there is a link between depression and obesity, based on the research that has already been carried out. Nevertheless, it is not yet clear whether these two disorders are linked genetically or otherwise.

Science has found links between depression and obesity, however it isn’t yet clear whether it is a genetic link or whether it’s as a result of other aspects. In the meanwhile, the available data are contradictory and don’t allow a definitive conclusion to be drawn.



There are several studies that speak about a link between depression and obesity. In truth, one in every of these studies directly suggests that such a link is genetic. Nevertheless, recent research has challenged these assumptions.

It has even been suggested that it’s obvious that there’s more depression in obese people, simply due to psychological and social implications of being chubby. In turn, depressed people change their eating habits and this may make them becoming chubby.

Let’s see, then, what information there may be about it within the scientific community.

Body mass index and depression

A study conducted on the University of Exeter (England) and the Cancer Research Centre of the University of South Australia, in 2018, is taken into account essentially the most comprehensive to date. In its preliminary conclusions, the research points out that a high Body Mass Index -BMI- implies a high risk of affected by depression.

The research was published within the International Journal of Epidemiology. It’s based on data collected in a genetic information bank on 50,000 people between the ages of 37 and 73, who had been diagnosed with depression. They compared these data with those of 29,000 individuals who were neither depressed nor chubby.

In the long run, they found that for each 4.7 points increase in BMI , the probability of getting depression increased by 18%. Within the case of girls, this percentage rose to 23%. The study added that men who were too thin were also more more likely to suffer from depression.

Proceed reading: 8 Self-help Activities to Deal with Depression

In 2012, a study developed by researchers from the University of Granada, Spain, led by Dr. Margarita Rivera Sánchez, was made public, suggesting that there is a genetic link between depression and obesity.

The research identified that depression modifies the results of the FTO gene, also often called the “obesity gene”. The consequence of this, based on the study, is that individuals with depression have a rise of their Body Mass Index (BMI).

To achieve these conclusions, also preliminary, a database of two,440 individuals diagnosed with depression was used as a basis, contrasting their data with a control group of 809 healthy individuals. The analyses led to think about that obesity problems are more frequent in those affected by depression.

The obesity gene

In 2019 a brand new study was carried out, this time advanced by Skarmeta’s group from the Andalusian Center for Developmental Biology in Seville; and that of Marcelo Nóbrega, from the Department of Human Genetics on the University of Chicago. The outcomes were published within the journal Nature.

On this research, they identified that in recent times nearly 2,000 studies have been published through which the FTO gene has been identified because the “obesity gene”. Nevertheless, for these researchers, the info is wrong. Although this gene is involved in fat metabolism , the true obesity gene could be Iroquois 3 or IRX3.

IRX3 has essential functions in virtually all human viscera and its motion occurs mainly within the hypothalamus of the brain. The researchers indicated that only 25-45% of obesity cases are as a result of genetic causes.

Obesity and depression could be linked in a vicious circle. Obese people feel depressed due to psychological consequences, and depressed people eat worse due to their condition

Discover more: A Study Found a Link Between Obesity and Depression

There isn’t any gene for depression

To finish the image, in 2019 the American Journal of Psychiatry published a study led by Richard Border, a geneticist on the University of Colorado. This expert, along along with his team, analyzed the genetic data of 620,000 people. From this, they got here to the conclusion that there’s no gene for depression.

The researchers compiled information on 18 genes which were known as incidents or determinants of depression. At the top of the study, they identified that none of those, nor the associated groups, determine depressive states. Each gene has only a minuscule effect on mood disorders.

This research debunks the concept depression is an exclusively genetic disorder. It also debunks the notion that there’s a “depression gene“. It doesn’t rule out the likelihood that hereditary aspects are involved, but suggests that they make up a fancy network of associated genes, which has yet to be discovered.

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All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to make sure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this text was considered reliable and of educational or scientific accuracy.


  • Padilla-Téllez, E., Ruiz García, J., & Rodríguez-Orozco, A. R. (2009). Asociación depresión-obesidad. salud pública de méxico, 51, 275-276.

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