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FTO gene

FTO gene does not affect weight loss

Carrying the risk version of the FTO gene had no effect on weight loss

Carriers of the FTO gene are known to be on average 3kgs (6.6lbs) heavier and 70% more likely to be obese. However, researchers at Newcastle University, publishing in The BMJ, report that in a review of eight studies involving over 9,000 people, carrying this gene did not prevent them losing weight.

Obesity is a major health problem and, in the UK, more than 25% of adults are obese. For some people, carrying the risk variant of the FTO gene can lead to them being heavier and increasing their risk of obesity. The FTO gene has been shown to have the biggest effect in this area.

In a major collaborative systematic review and meta-analysis, the international team used individual data from 9,563 adults who were enrolled in randomised controlled weight loss trials around the world to find out whether carrying the risk version of the FTO gene affects how much weight people lose. In their study, ‘FTO genotype and weight loss: systematic review and meta-analysis of 9563 individual participant data from eight randomised controlled trials’, they found that carrying the risk version of the FTO gene had no effect on weight loss.

"You can no longer blame your genes,” said John Mathers, Professor of Human Nutrition at Newcastle University, who led the study. “Our study shows that improving your diet and being more physically active will help you lose weight, regardless of your genetic makeup. We were excited to find that people with the risk version of FTO respond just as well to weight loss interventions as everyone else. This is important news for people trying to lose weight as it means that diet, physical activity or drug-based weight loss plans will work just as well in those who carry the risk version of FTO. For public health professionals, it means that the adverse effects of the FTO genotype on weight gain are not an impediment to weight loss interventions."

Importantly, the team found that the response to weight loss interventions for people carrying the risk variant of the FTO gene was similar for men and women, younger and older and people of different ethnicities. However, most people in the studies were Caucasians with smaller numbers of those from Black/ African American and Hispanic backgrounds. The team say future research should explore effects of FTO on weight loss in other ethnic groups. In addition, the effects of other obesity-related genes on weight loss remain to be investigated.

“We have observed that carriage of the FTO minor allele was not associated with differential change in adiposity after weight loss interventions,” the team concluded. “These findings show that individuals carrying the minor allele respond equally well to dietary, physical activity, or drug based weight loss interventions and thus genetic predisposition to obesity associated with the FTO minor allele can be at least partly counteracted through such interventions.”

To access this paper, please click here

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