Obesity-Causing Gene Linked to Food Intake, Not Energy Use

Gene linked to obesity predisposition not involved in regulation of energy expenditure, but may affect food choices

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 10 (HealthDay News) -- The rs9939609 variant of the fat mass and obesity-associated (FTO) gene, previously found to confer predisposition to obesity, is not involved in energy expenditure regulation but may be linked with food choices, researchers report in the Dec. 11 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Joanne E. Cecil, Ph.D., of the University of St. Andrews in the United Kingdom, and colleagues investigated the FTO variant rs9939609 in 2,726 children (aged 4 to 10 years). The FTO gene was genotyped to group children into those who did and did not carry the A allele, known to be associated with obesity risk. The children underwent further evaluation to determine associations between FTO variations and adiposity, energy expenditure and food intake.

The A allele was significantly associated with increased fat mass, but not lean mass, the researchers report. Both total and resting energy expenditure was increased in A allele children compared to children without this allele. However, resting expenditure was equivalent to that predicted for these children based on age and weight, leading the investigators to conclude that the A allele had no effect on energy expenditure regulation. Children with the A allele had significantly more energy intake, without increased total weight of consumed food, suggesting children with the A allele preferentially consumed high-energy foods.

The authors conclude that these results suggest that "moderate and controlled restriction of energy intake may prevent FTO genotype-associated obesity."

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