Polygenic scores, diet quality, and type 2 diabetes risk: An observational study among 35,759 adults from 3 US cohorts

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Both genetic and lifestyle factors contribute to the risk of type 2 diabetes, but the extent to which there is a synergistic effect of the 2 factors is unclear. The aim of this study was to examine the joint associations of genetic risk and diet quality with incident type 2 diabetes.

Methods and findings
We analyzed data from 35,759 men and women in the United States participating in the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) I (1986 to 2016) and II (1991 to 2017) and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (HPFS; 1986 to 2016) with available genetic data and who did not have diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or cancer at baseline. Genetic risk was characterized using both a global polygenic score capturing overall genetic risk and pathway-specific polygenic scores denoting distinct pathophysiological mechanisms. Diet quality was assessed using the Alternate Healthy Eating Index (AHEI). Cox models were used to calculate hazard ratios (HRs) for type 2 diabetes after adjusting for potential confounders. With over 902,386 person-years of follow-up, 4,433 participants were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. The relative risk of type 2 diabetes was 1.29 (95% confidence interval [CI] 1.25, 1.32; P < 0.001) per standard deviation (SD) increase in global polygenic score and 1.13 (1.09, 1.17; P < 0.001) per 10-unit decrease in AHEI. Irrespective of genetic risk, low diet quality, as compared to high diet quality, was associated with approximately 30% increased risk of type 2 diabetes (Pinteraction = 0.69). The joint association of low diet quality and increased genetic risk was similar to the sum of the risk associated with each factor alone (Pinteraction = 0.30). Limitations of this study include the self-report of diet information and possible bias resulting from inclusion of highly educated participants with available genetic data.

These data provide evidence for the independent associations of genetic risk and diet quality with incident type 2 diabetes and suggest that a healthy diet is associated with lower diabetes risk across all levels of genetic risk.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPLoS Medicine
Issue number4
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 2022
Externally publishedYes

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