BACKGROUND Genetic information is becoming more easily available, and rapid progress is being made in developing methods of illuminating issues of interest. Mendelian randomisation makes it possible to study causes of disease using observational data. The name refers to the random distribution of gene variants in meiosis. The methodology makes use of genes that influence a risk factor for a disease, without influencing the disease itself. In this review article I explain the principles behind Mendelian randomisation and present the areas of application for this methodology.MATERIAL AND METHOD Methodology articles describing Mendelian randomisation were reviewed. The articles were found through a search in PubMed with the combination «mendelian randomization» OR «mendelian randomisation», and a search in McMaster Plus with the combination «mendelian randomization». A total of 15 methodology articles were read in full text. Methodology articles were supplemented by clinical studies found in the PubMed search.RESULTS In contrast to traditional observational studies, Mendelian randomisation studies are not affected by two important sources of error: conventional confounding variables and reverse causation. Mendelian randomisation is therefore a promising tool for studying causality. Mendelian randomisation studies have already provided valuable knowledge on the risk factors for a wide range of diseases. It is nevertheless important to be aware of the limitations of the methodology. As a result of the rapid developments in genetics research, Mendelian randomisation will probably be widely used in future years.INTERPRETATION If Mendelian randomisation studies are conducted correctly, they may help to reveal both modifiable and non-modifiable causes of disease.