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Investigating the role of insulin in increased adiposity: Bi-directional Mendelian randomization study

By Rebecca Richmond, Kaitlin H Wade, L Corbin, Jack Bowden, Gibran Hemani, Nicholas J Timpson, George Davey Smith

Posted 28 Jun 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/155739

Insulin may serve as a key causal agent which regulates fat accumulation in the body. Here we assessed the causal relationship between fasting insulin and adiposity using publicly-available results from two large-scale genome-wide association studies for body mass index and fasting insulin levels in a two-sample, bidirectional Mendelian Randomized approach. This approach is only valid on the condition that the two instruments are independent of one another. In analysis excluding overlapping loci, there was an increase of 0.20 (0.17, 0.23) log pmol/L fasting insulin per SD increase in BMI (P= 2.80 x 10-36), while there was a null effect of fasting insulin on BMI, with a 0.01 (-0.39, 0.38) SD decrease in BMI per log pmol/L increase in fasting insulin (P= 0.98). Furthermore, a high degree of heterogeneity in the causal estimates was obtained from the insulin-related variants, which may be attributed to varying mechanisms of action of the insulin-associated variants. Results were largely consistent when an Egger regression technique and weighted median and mode estimators were applied. Findings suggest that the positive correlation between adiposity and fasting insulin levels are at least in part explained by the causal effect of adiposity on increasing insulin, rather than vice versa.

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