Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

BU Illuminates Gene–Smoking Interactions Related to BMI

A large team of international researchers, co-led by Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) biostatisticians, has identified 23 novel genetic loci indicating that tobacco smoking may alter people’s genetic susceptibility to overall fat and body-fat distribution.

In a study published in Nature Communications, the team of researchers evaluated smoking in conjunction with genetic factors and found evidence of gene–smoking interactions on obesity, assessed by body-mass index (BMI) and central obesity measured by waist circumference and waist-to-hip ratio, both adjusted for BMI. The loci identified in the study highlight “novel biological functions, including response to oxidative stress, addictive behavior, and regulatory functions emphasizing the importance of accounting for environment in genetic analyses,” the authors said.

The researchers determined that many of the newly identified loci support the hypothesis that smoking may influence weight fluctuations through appetite regulation, highlighting new biological processes and pathways implicated in the pathogenesis of obesity.

Co-senior author Dr. Adrienne Cupples, professor of biostatistics at BUSPH, said the study’s findings are significant because they illuminate mechanisms by which genes may influence addictive behaviors and responses to stress.

“The findings show that it is important to consider environmental factors such as smoking in searching for genetic factors affecting adiposity traits and other traits,” she said.

To read more about the study, go to: