April 19, 2010
Gene Boosts Obesity And Alzheimer's Risk

A variant of the fat mass and obesity associated (FTO) gene causes both weight gain and brain tissue loss.

Three years ago, geneticists reported the startling discovery that nearly half of all people in the U.S. with European ancestry carry a variant of the fat mass and obesity associated (FTO) gene, which causes them to gain weight from three to seven pounds, on average but worse, puts them at risk for obesity.

Now, UCLA researchers have found that the same gene allele, which is also carried by roughly one-quarter of U.S. Hispanics, 15 percent of African Americans and 15 percent of Asian Americans, may have another deleterious effect.

Reporting in the early online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, senior study author Paul Thompson, a UCLA professor of neurology; lead authors April Ho and Jason Stein, graduate students in Thompson's lab; and colleagues found that the FTO variant is also associated with a loss of brain tissue. This puts more than a third of the U.S. population at risk for a variety of diseases, such as Alzheimer's.

What I wonder: If weight gain can be avoided does the brain tissue loss still happen? In other words, what's the mechanism of action for the brain loss?

If you could get yourself tested for FTO gene variants would you want to know which variant you have? It isn't clear to me what you could do with the results.

The really appealing genetic tests will be the ones that give you actionable information. For example, what's your ideal personal diet? Which foods are you at greater risk from? Knowing that you had genetic variants of enzymes for processing heterocyclic amines that put you at higher risk for cancer would let you know to not cook your meat at high temperatures. Also, not everyone gets much of a blood pressure risk from eating a lot of salt. It would be helpful to know if one should avoid salt or not. Why deprive yourself of something if deprivation isn't beneficial?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 April 19 11:11 PM  Aging Genetics

AB said at April 20, 2010 2:49 PM:

I looked at the raw data I got from 23andme and found the snp. I have the middle one - I'm slightly at risk, not the highest, not the lowest. I suspected as much. I have long ago adjusted my diet and lifestyle to fit the body type I have. I pretty much have to stay low carb all the time.

I also found out from 23andme about salt:

"Each T at the SNP rs3754777 which is located in a gene known to influence salt processing by the kidneys increased subjects' systolic blood pressure about 2 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure about 1 mm Hg."

My results were CC (Subjects had no increase in blood pressure) I appear to be ok with salt processing.

I also got results for caffeine metabolism. Big sigh - I should cut back. I am CC (Slow metabolizer). Here's the info from 23andme:

Caffeine is primarily metabolized by the liver enzyme cytochrome P450 1A2 (CYP1A2). The form of the SNP rs762551 a person has determines how fast CYP1A2 metabolizes caffeine. In this study, people with the slower version of the CYP1A2 enzyme who also drank at least two to three cups of coffee per day had a significantly increased risk of a non-fatal heart attack. The study found that fast metabolizers, on the other hand, may have actually reduced their heart attack risk by drinking coffee.

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