Since the discovery of the FTO gene (Fat mass and obesity-associated protein) it has been associated with obesity in human beings. Early on everyone was quick to jump to the conclusion that the presence of this allele in humans lead to increased likelihood of obesity, conclusions were also made that it was harder for a person to lose weight when this gene was present.
Well, a new study published in the British Medical Journal has just thrown into question everything geneticists have previously believed about the so-called ‘fat gene’, and they now have data to back up their conclusion that people carrying the FTO gene respond the same to exercise, diet, and drug-based weight loss interventions as people who don’t carry the ‘fat gene’. There’s plenty of scientific jargon going on here so if you’re not into that just jump to the last section of the blockquote below:
This systematic review and meta-analysis of individual participant data reveals that carriage of the FTO minor allele, associated with risk of obesity in the general population as well as baseline adiposity in the present study, was not associated with changes in body mass index, body weight, or waist circumference in response to weight loss intervention. Our findings show that weight loss in those carrying the FTO minor allele is similar to the rest of the population after dietary, exercise, or drug based interventions. Future studies should investigate the possibility that a panel of genetic variants, including other FTO genotypes, may modulate weight loss in obese people in response to lifestyle and other interventions.
What is already known on this topic
Obesity is a major public health burden and its prevalence is increasing worldwide
The minor allele for the fat mass and obesity associated gene (FTO) rs9939609 is linked to increased risk of obesity
What this study adds
Carriage of the FTO minor allele has no effect on the efficacy of lifestyle and drug related weight loss interventions
What you need to know: the presence of the ‘fat gene’ has ‘no effect’ on a person with that gene trying to lose weight when compared to a person who doesn’t have that gene. Weight loss results were the same for people who changed their diet, lifestyle/exercise routine, or introduced weight loss drugs.
This isn’t implying that the people with that gene aren’t more likely to gain weight than their counterparts without the gene, that wasn’t tested at all, it’s just saying that when people try to lose weight and make a serious effort then the results are the same with or without the so-called ‘fat gene’.