Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The WHO's report on noncommunicable diseases

The World Health Organization of the United Nations has released a report titled "Global status report on noncommunicable diseases." Access to the report and its individual chapters is at this link. I was particularly interested in Chapter 1 and the major contributing factors to noncommunicable diseases (NCD).

According to the above report and others from the WHO, the four primary contributors to global increases in NCDs, such as type 2 diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular diseases, are:

  • tobacco
  • harmful use of alcohol
  • unhealthy diet
  • physical inactivity

  • While such a list is really not surprising, what I do take from this, with respect to my own research on the genetic basis for the differential response to the diet as it pertains to metabolic diseases, is these are our key environmental factors used to assess gene by environment, or GxE, interactions. In other words, while these factors are strong contributors to NCD onset and progression, genetic differences exert different influences on the disease risk, onset and progression in different individuals. That influence could be negative - increasing risk - or positive - being more protective.

    Thus, the importance of GxE identification cannot be overlooked, and ought really to be emphasized in genetic association studies.

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