Have you heard of the FTO gene? It’s the Fat-mass and Obesity-associated Gene placed on chromosome 16q12.2 and is supposed to be associated with obesity. The relationship was recognized first in 2007 and later, many single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) of the Fto Gene have been associated with the risk of obesity and its consequences.
A new study done by researchers at the MRC (Medical Research Council), UCL and King’s College London Institute of Psychiatry reveals that those having obesity-risk FTO variant have more amount of the ‘hunger hormone’, ghrelin, circulating in their blood which makes them feel hungry again soon after having a meal.
As shown by real-time brain imaging, FTO gene variation also alters the way the brain reacts to ghrelin and pictures of food, in the areas connected to the control of eating and reward.
These observations explain for the first time why those with the FTO gene’s obesity-risk variant eat more and like higher calorie foods than people with the low-risk variant, even before they start increasing weight.
Earlier studies have shown that single “letter” variants in the genetic code of the FTO gene are associated with an increased risk of obesity and this is seen even in preschool children.
The researchers studied two groups of people – those having two copies of the FTO gene in obesity (AA group) and those having the low-obesity risk variant (TT group).
10 AA and 10 TT participants were asked to analyze their appetite before and after a regular meal and blood samples were tested for ghrelin, the hormone secreted by stomach cells that stimulates hunger.
Typically ghrelin levels increase prior to meals and drop after eating; but in this study, people with AA variant had much higher levels of ghrelin circulating in the blood and felt hungrier after the meal than people in the TT group. This indicates that the obesity-risk variant (AA) group doesn’t subdue ghrelin in a normal fashion after a meal.
In the functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) of a different group of 24 people, those with obesity-risk FTO variation rated images of high-calorie foods as more appealing after a meal than those in the low-risk group.
FTO gene type 2 diabetes connection has also been found in a European population. But the connection was lost after rectifying body-mass index, which suggests that FTO-medicated vulnerability to type 2 diabetes was induced through an association between FTO and obesity.
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