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Common Gene Variant Linked to Obesity Risk

FTO may predispose patients to type 2 diabetes through its effect on adiposity

THURSDAY, April 12 (HealthDay News) -- A common variant in the FTO gene, which currently has an unknown function, increases the risk for obesity by 67 percent for homozygous carriers, according to a report published April 12 in Science. An analysis of mostly European adults and children suggests that about 16 percent of people are homozygous for the variant.

Andrew Hattersley, of Peninsula Medical School in Exeter, U.K., and colleagues conducted a genome-wide search for type 2 diabetes susceptibility genes and found a single-nucleotide polymorphism in FTO was more common in diabetic than control patients. They looked for associations with body mass index in 13 cohorts with a total of 38,759 adults and children.

The investigators found that the variant of FTO, rs9939609, was consistently associated with greater body mass index in patients aged 7 and older. Homozygous carriers of the variant gene, which occurred in about 16 percent of the study group, averaged 3 kilograms heavier than those without the polymorphism. The effect was largely due to changes in fat mass.

The authors suggest that FTO is linked to type 2 diabetes through its effect on obesity. "Understanding how variation in the FTO gene region is associated with adiposity may provide insights into novel pathways involved in the control of adiposity," they conclude.

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