Genetic variation in the obesity gene FTO is not associated with decreased fat oxidation: the NEO study

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The fat mass and obesity-associated (FTO) gene harbors the strongest common genetic variant associated with obesity. Recently, rs1421085-T to -C substitution mapped in FTO was shown to induce a developmental shift of human adipocytes from an energy-combusting beige to an energy-storing white phenotype in vitro. As browning of adipocytes selectively enhances fat oxidation (FatOx), we hypothesized that rs1421085-C in FTO is associated with deceased FatOx compared with carbohydrate oxidation (CarbOx) and an increased respiratory quotient (RQ).


In the Netherlands Epidemiology of Obesity study, a population-based cohort study of middle-aged individuals (45-65 years), anthropometry and genotyping was performed (n = 5744), in addition to indirect calorimetry (n = 1246). With linear regression analyses, we examined associations of rs1421085 genotype with FatOx, CarbOx and RQ.


In the total study population, 36.7% carried the rs1421085-TT genotype, 47.6% rs1421085-CT and 15.7% rs1421085-CC. Mean (s.d.) age was 56 (6) years, mean (s.d.), body mass index (BMI) was 26.3 (4.4) kg m-2 and 56% of the total population were women. Measures of adiposity (difference, 95% confidence interval) were higher in CC carriers compared with that in rs1421085-TT carriers: BMI +0.56 (0.15, 0.98) kg m-2, waist circumference +1.25 (0.02, 2.49) cm and total body fat mass +1.21 (0.28, 2.14) kg. However, no differences in mean FatOx (+2.5 (-2.4, 7.4) mg min-1), CarbOx (-6.1 (-17.4, 5.2) mg min-1) or RQ (-0.01 (-0.02, 0.01)) were observed between the two genotypes.


We observed no evidence for associations of rs1421085 in FTO with FatOx and RQ. This indicates that the rs1421085-C allele in FTO induces obesity likely via other pathways than via reduced FatOx.

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