FTO the Obesity Gene
At first, the FTO gene sounds innocuous enough, a sort of nothing to see here folks so let’s move along acronym. When it is fleshed out though, uh-oh: fat mass and obesity-associated gene. The term has too many treacherous words, fat and mass and obesity. This can’t be good, and those volunteers who learned that they carried the gene made that exact assumption. They believed themselves doomed to fate and consumed an excess of fatty foods over the next 90 days.
But I am ahead of myself, so let’s go back and start again.
The FTO Gene
The FTO gene was first identified in 2007 and found to be relatively common. Sixty-five percent of people of African or European descent and approximately 44% of Asians have some version of the FTO gene. It is believed that those who carry the gene increase the risk for obesity by 12%.
Researchers announced that they had identified a genetic variant that could be linked to an increased likelihood for obesity and that people with two copies of this variant were on average heavier than those who were without.
Additional research produced greater evidence that the FTO gene and obesity were connected. Scientists bred mice with extra copies of the FTO gene and found that they became fatter than normal mice. Female mice were 22% fatter than normal mice after 20 weeks and males were 10% fatter. All were fed a standard diet.
The Influence on Food Choices by the Obesity Gene
A study that was published online in the June 2012 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition maintains that variations within the FTO gene might play a part in making dietary choices that promote obesity.
Variations in the FTO gene were associated with:
- Eating a greater number of meals and snacks per day, as well as
- A greater percentage of energy from fat, and
- An increase in servings of fats, oils and sweets
Previous research has shown that children who have the FTO gene variant are heavier than children who do not have the variant. Testing showed that children with the variant ate more food, especially foods that are high in calories. The gene seems to be involved in the consumption of calories although the body does not handle these calories any differently.
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition publication was one of the first studies to extend the findings made in children to adults.
The Benefit of Physical Activity
Initially there was some confusion regarding the effects of physical activity on the FTO gene. It was believed that such activity weakened the gene's effect on body weight gain but study results either conflicted with this result or did not confirm an interaction.
The problem seemed to be the use of different methods to define physical activity, but once an agreed upon definition was reached it was discovered that those who met the criteria for that definition were able to reduce the effect of the FTO gene by thirty percent. Physical activity was generously defined as someone who engages in moderate to vigorous activity for at least one hour per week.
Living life well-fed,
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Science Daily - http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120523114847.htm
The New York Times - http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/11/23/when-fat-runs-in-the-family/
Published On: February 27, 2013