Whole Blood DNA Methylation Signatures of Diet Are Associated With Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors and All-Cause Mortality

Jiantao Ma, Casey M. Rebholz, Kim V.E. Braun, Lindsay M. Reynolds, Stella Aslibekyan, Rui Xia, Niranjan G. Biligowda, Tianxiao Huan, Chunyu Liu, Michael M. Mendelson, Roby Joehanes, Emily A. Hu, Mara Z. Vitolins, Alexis C. Wood, Kurt Lohman, Carolina Ochoa-Rosales, Joyce Van Meurs, Andre Uitterlinden, Yongmei Liu, Mohamed A. ElhadadMargit Heier, Melanie Waldenberger, Annette Peters, Elena Colicino, Eric A. Whitsel, Antoine Baldassari, Sina A. Gharib, Nona Sotoodehnia, Jennifer A. Brody, Colleen M. Sitlani, Toshiko Tanaka, W. David Hill, Janie Corley, Ian J. Deary, Yan Zhang, Ben Schöttker, Hermann Brenner, Maura E. Walker, Shumao Ye, Steve Nguyen, Jim Pankow, Ellen W. Demerath, Yinan Zheng, Lifang Hou, Liming Liang, Alice H. Lichtenstein, Frank B. Hu, Myriam Fornage, Trudy Voortman, Daniel Levy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: DNA methylation patterns associated with habitual diet have not been well studied.

METHODS: Diet quality was characterized using a Mediterranean-style diet score and the Alternative Healthy Eating Index score. We conducted ethnicity-specific and trans-ethnic epigenome-wide association analyses for diet quality and leukocyte-derived DNA methylation at over 400 000 CpGs (cytosine-guanine dinucleotides) in 5 population-based cohorts including 6662 European ancestry, 2702 African ancestry, and 360 Hispanic ancestry participants. For diet-associated CpGs identified in epigenome-wide analyses, we conducted Mendelian randomization (MR) analysis to examine their relations to cardiovascular disease risk factors and examined their longitudinal associations with all-cause mortality.

RESULTS: We identified 30 CpGs associated with either Mediterranean-style diet score or Alternative Healthy Eating Index, or both, in European ancestry participants. Among these CpGs, 12 CpGs were significantly associated with all-cause mortality (Bonferroni corrected P<1.6×10 -3). Hypermethylation of cg18181703 ( SOCS3) was associated with higher scores of both Mediterranean-style diet score and Alternative Healthy Eating Index and lower risk for all-cause mortality ( P=5.7×10 -15). Ten additional diet-associated CpGs were nominally associated with all-cause mortality ( P<0.05). MR analysis revealed 8 putatively causal associations for 6 CpGs with 4 cardiovascular disease risk factors (body mass index, triglycerides, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol concentrations, and type 2 diabetes mellitus; Bonferroni corrected MR P<4.5×10 -4). For example, hypermethylation of cg11250194 ( FADS2) was associated with lower triglyceride concentrations (MR, P=1.5×10 -14).and hypermethylation of cg02079413 ( SNORA54; NAP1L4) was associated with body mass index (corrected MR, P=1×10 -6).

CONCLUSIONS: Habitual diet quality was associated with differential peripheral leukocyte DNA methylation levels of 30 CpGs, most of which were also associated with multiple health outcomes, in European ancestry individuals. These findings demonstrate that integrative genomic analysis of dietary information may reveal molecular targets for disease prevention and treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E002766
JournalCirculation: Genomic and Precision Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020

Bibliographical note

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  • DNA methylation
  • cardiovascular disease
  • diet
  • epigenome
  • triglycerides


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