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Journal of Obesity
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 396416, 12 pages
Review Article

Genetics of Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes in African Americans

1Division of Endocrinology, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA
2Division of Human Genetics, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA
3Department of Pediatrics, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA
4Center for Applied Genomics, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA

Received 16 November 2012; Accepted 13 February 2013

Academic Editor: Sanjay Kinra

Copyright © 2013 Shana McCormack and Struan F. A. Grant. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Obesity and type 2 diabetes are highly prevalent and lead to significant morbidity and mortality. In the United States, the impact of these conditions may be worse on historically underserved minorities, particularly African Americans. Genetic ancestry and differences in physiology are unlikely to be the sole or primary determinants of these disparities. In addition, research in this area has the ethically problematic possibility of conflating race with biology. Despite these important considerations and the challenges of conducting this work, population-based approaches for investigating the etiology of obesity and T2D may yield useful information about the pathophysiology of disease, and have implications that extend to all affected individuals. The purpose of this paper is to describe what is understood about the genetic variation that underlies obesity and T2D in African Americans and other individuals of more recent African descent and to highlight several examples that illustrate how ensuring adequate minority representation in genetic research improves its quality. For a variety of reasons a number of unique insights have been possible as a result of these efforts.