Alfonso Flores-Lagunes (Co-PI) is part of a team that received a 3-year grant from NIH for their research project titled, “Genes, Education, and Gene-Education Interactions in Obesity and Mental Health.” Collaborators include Vikesh Amin, PI (Central Michigan University), Carlos A. Flores, Co-PI(California Polytechnic State University--San Luis Obispo), and Jere Behrman, Co-PI and H-P Kohler, Co-PI (University of Pennsylvania).
The project aims to increase our understanding of whether education is capable of moderating an individual’s underlying genetic risk of being obese or depressed through gene-environment (GxE) interactions, which occur when the effect of genetic risk varies across the environment. For example, a college graduate with a high genetic risk of being obese may never be obese because education is associated with higher income affording the individual to eat healthier and having peers who are conscious about leading a healthy lifestyle. In contrast, a high school dropout with a high genetic risk may be more likely to be obese because he/she has a low income, is more likely to consume fast food, and interacts with peers who are obese. The project will apply econometric methods that use quasi-experimental variation in educational attainment to analyze the causal relations of education, genes, and GxE interactions on obesity and depression. Three different datasets from the United States and the United Kingdom will be employed. Overall, the project will provide a comprehensive array of results and new insights as results from different methods, datasets, across different educational levels, and by gender are compared.