The FTO gene, or the “fat gene,” affects one out of every six adults, making them 70% more likely to become obese. However, the mechanism by which it did so was a mystery, until now.
A British-led science team studied blood samples from subjects after meals while simultaneously monitoring their brains using functional magnetic resonance imaging. They found that people with the FTO gene not only had increased levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin, but greater sensitivity to the hormone in their brains as well. "It's a double hit," said Rachel Batterham, who led the study.
According to Batterham, the discovery could provide exciting new leads in the fight against obesity, which kills almost 3 million adults each year.
Steve Bloom of Imperial College London said that while the FTO gene is only a small part of the obesity epidemic, this latest discovery symbolizes “an important step forward.”