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obese Chinese woman standing by a window.

Obesity, or adiposity, affects about 700 million adults worldwide and continues to rise steadily in most countries, including China. Although the health effects of adiposity on cardio-metabolic diseases and many cancers are well established, there are still unanswered questions about its aetiological role in many other diseases. Moreover, the relative importance of different measures of adiposity (e.g. general vs central obesity) in predicting disease risks and the likely biological mechanisms underpinning their associations are still not properly investigated.

Building on previous research on obesity, we will continue to study the genetic determinants and health consequences of adiposity as well as novel biological mechanisms linking adiposity with different diseases.

Our ongoing and planned work aims:

  • to understand the genetic architectures of different measures of adiposity (e.g. BMI, waist circumference, lean body mass) in the Chinese population, using genome-wide association studies (GWAS);
  • to qualitatively and quantitatively assess the associations of different measures of adiposity with a broad range of diseases;
  • to explore the novel mechanisms linking adiposity with risk of specific diseases, using available and emerging biochemistry, protein, small molecular metabolite and genetic data;
  • to determine the likely cause-effect associations of adiposity with specific diseases and traits, using a Mendelian randomisation approach;
  • to compare the qualitative and quantitative associations of adiposity with specific diseases and traits in Chinese adults with those in other populations.

In collaboration with China’s Centre for Disease Control (CDC) we will use nationally representative data to assess the disease burden attributed to obesity and the ‘biologically’ optimal levels of adiposity associated with the lowest disease burden in Chinese adults. We will also utilise data from other biobanks (e.g. UK Biobank).