Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Obesity gene, carried by more than a third of the US population, leads to brain tissue loss

Date:
April 20, 2010
Source:
University of California - Los Angeles
Summary:
Researchers have found that an obesity-related gene carried by nearly half of all Central and Western Europeans may also be associated with brain degeneration.

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. The FTO variant has now been 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.
Credit: iStockphoto/Linda & Colin McKie

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.

Using magnetic resonance imaging, the researchers generated three-dimensional "maps" of brain volume differences in 206 healthy elderly subjects drawn from 58 sites in the U.S. as part of the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative, a large, five-year study aimed at better understanding factors that help the brain resist disease as it ages.

They found that there was consistently less tissue in the brains of those who carry the FTO allele, compared with non-carriers. Individuals with the "bad" version of the FTO gene had an average of 8 percent less tissue in the frontal lobes, the "command center" of the brain, and 12 percent less in the occipital lobes, areas in the back of the brain responsible for vision and perception. Further, the brain differences could not be directly attributed to other obesity-related factors such as cholesterol levels, diabetes or high blood pressure.

Thompson called the findings worrying and mysterious.

"The results are curious. If you have the bad FTO gene, your weight affects your brain adversely in terms of tissue loss," he said. "If you don't carry FTO, higher body weight doesn't translate into brain deficits; in fact, it has nothing to do with it. This is a very mysterious, widespread gene."

People who carry this specific DNA sequence are heavier on average, and their waist circumference is half an inch bigger.

This is a large percentage of the population, said Thompson, who is also a member of UCLA's Brain Research Institute and the UCLA Laboratory of Neuro Imaging.

"This is a shocking finding. Any loss of brain tissue puts you at greater risk for functional decline," he said. "The risk gene divides the world into two camps ― those who have the FTO allele and those who don't."

But the news is not necessarily completely negative, Thompson said, because "carriers of the risk gene can exercise and eat healthily to resist both obesity and brain decline."

Thompson sees both a public health message and a science message in this finding.

"Half of the world carries this dangerous gene. But a healthy lifestyle will counteract the risk of brain loss, whether you carry the gene or not. So it's vital to boost your brain health by being physically active and eating a balanced diet," he said.

And from a scientific standpoint, he said, "the gene discovery will help to develop and fine tune the anti-dementia drugs being developed to combat brain aging."

Funding for the study came from the National Institutes of Health and from private industry.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California - Los Angeles. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. April J. Ho, Jason L. Stein, Xue Hua, Suh Lee, Derrek P. Hibar, Alex D. Leow, Ivo D. Dinov, Arthur W. Toga, Andrew J. Saykin, Li Shen, Tatiana Foroud, Nathan Pankratz, Matthew J. Huentelman, David W. Craig, Jill D. Gerber, April N. Allen, Jason J. Corneveaux, Dietrich A. Stephan, Charles S. Decarli, Bryan M. Dechairo, Steven G. Potkin, Clifford R. Jack, Jr., Michael W. Weiner, Cyrus A. Raji, Oscar L. Lopez, James T. Becker, Owen T. Carmichael, Paul M. Thompson, and the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative. A commonly carried allele of the obesity-related FTO gene is associated with reduced brain volume in the healthy elderly. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2010; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0910878107

Cite This Page:

University of California - Los Angeles. "Obesity gene, carried by more than a third of the US population, leads to brain tissue loss." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 April 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100419162308.htm>.
University of California - Los Angeles. (2010, April 20). Obesity gene, carried by more than a third of the US population, leads to brain tissue loss. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100419162308.htm
University of California - Los Angeles. "Obesity gene, carried by more than a third of the US population, leads to brain tissue loss." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100419162308.htm (accessed July 24, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Idaho Boy Helps Brother With Disabilities Complete Triathlon

Idaho Boy Helps Brother With Disabilities Complete Triathlon

Newsy (July 23, 2014) An 8-year-old boy helped his younger brother, who has a rare genetic condition that's confined him to a wheelchair, finish a triathlon. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Thousands Who Can't Afford Medical Care Flock to Free US Clinic

Thousands Who Can't Afford Medical Care Flock to Free US Clinic

AFP (July 23, 2014) America may be the world’s richest country, but in terms of healthcare, the World Health Organisation ranks it 37th. Thousands turned out for a free clinic run by "Remote Area Medical" with a visit from the Governor of Virginia. Duration: 2:40 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Stone Fruit Listeria Scare Causes Sweeping Recall

Stone Fruit Listeria Scare Causes Sweeping Recall

Newsy (July 22, 2014) The Wawona Packing Company has issued a voluntary recall on the stone fruit it distributes due to a possible Listeria outbreak. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Huge Schizophrenia Study Finds Dozens Of New Genetic Causes

Huge Schizophrenia Study Finds Dozens Of New Genetic Causes

Newsy (July 22, 2014) The 83 new genetic markers could open dozens of new avenues for schizophrenia treatment research. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins