What is the association of obesity, FTO (fat mass and obesity) gene and type 2 diabetes?

Updated: Feb 10, 2016
  • Author: Ali Torkamani, PhD; Chief Editor: Keith K Vaux, MD  more...
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The first report linking the FTO (fat mass and obesity-associated) gene (synonyms KIAA1752, MGC5149, ALKBH9) and obesity came from a genomewide association study linking FTO variants with type 2 diabetes in a European population. [1] The connection between FTO and diabetes was lost after correcting for body-mass index, suggesting that FTO -mediated susceptibility to type 2 diabetes was driven through a relationship between FTO and obesity.

Numerous studies have since confirmed the association of FTO with obesity in European populations. [2, 3, 4, 5] Although the strength of this association in other ethnic populations is not as striking, ample evidence suggests that FTO variants are related to obesity in nonwhite populations as well. [6, 7, 8, 9, 10]

In white populations, people who are homozygous for the at-risk allele of rs9939609 have an approximately 1.7-fold increased risk of obesity and are about 3kg heavier than average. Although the average weight difference attributable to common FTO variants is relatively modest, FTO is among the strongest known common genetic risk factors for obesity.

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