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Journal Article

Appetite disinhibition rather than hunger explains genetic effects on adult BMI trajectory


Publication date

14 Jan 2021


The mediating role of eating behaviors in genetic susceptibility to weight gain during mid-adult life is not fully understood. This longitudinal study aims to help us understand contributions of genetic susceptibility and appetite to weight gain.
We followed the body-mass index (BMI) trajectories of 2464 adults from 45 to 65 years of age by measuring weight and height on four occasions at 5-year intervals. Genetic risk of obesity (gene risk score: GRS) was ascertained, comprising 92 BMI-associated single-nucleotide polymorphisms and split at a median (=high and low risk). At the baseline, the Eating Inventory was used to assess appetite-related traits of ‘disinhibition’, indicative of opportunistic eating or overeating and ‘hunger’ which is susceptibility to/ability to cope with the sensation of hunger. Roles of the GRS and two appetite-related scores for BMI trajectories were examined using a mixed model adjusted for the cohort effect and sex.
Disinhibition was associated with higher BMI (β = 2.96; 95% CI: 2.66–3.25 kg/m2), and accounted for 34% of the genetically-linked BMI difference at age 45. Hunger was also associated with higher BMI (β = 1.20; 0.82–1.59 kg/m2) during mid-life and slightly steeper weight gain, but did not attenuate the effect of disinhibition.
Appetite disinhibition is most likely to be a defining characteristic of genetic susceptibility to obesity. High levels of appetite disinhibition, rather than hunger, may underlie genetic vulnerability to obesogenic environments in two-thirds of the population of European ancestry.

Published in

International Journal of Obesity





Health, Life Course Analysis, and Genetics


Open Access; This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit; Online Early


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