The FTO gene encodes a protein called lipoprotein lipase, which hydrolyzes triglycerides into free fatty acids. The FTO gene is located on chromosome 11p13.3–p13.7.1 in humans and on chromosome 15q12–q14 in mice [ 1 ]. The FTO gene product is involved in regulating body weight and adiposity. The FTO gene contains a number of repeated sequences and has been a recent target of positive selection in humans, indicating that it is a candidate for influencing obesity ( Table 1 ) . The mechanism of this gene’s influence on body weight is not fully understood, but it is believed to influence energy homeostasis by regulating lipid metabolism. FTO influences behavior related to eating and metabolic rate. In addition, FTO is involved in the regulation of circadian rhythms, which are related to metabolism.
Familial obesity has been shown to be highly heritable in numerous studies ( Table 1 ), and some of the highest heritability estimates have been observed for BMI in adults and children. The FTO gene has a greater effect on BMI in adults than in children and is more influential on males than females. Most of the evidence on the FTO gene’s role in obesity comes from studies including thousands of participants. Although some positive findings have been reported, most variants other than the FTO risk SNP have not been consistently replicated in follow-up studies. The causal role of the FTO gene in obesity and body weight regulation remains unclear.
Other genes have a higher estimated heritability for BMI and are more predictive of weight changes in an interventional setting.
The present use of the term ‘obesity’ in the context of genetic research refers to body fat accumulation, not excess weight. It is in the definition of metabolic syndromes such as ‘Syndrome X’ and ‘Dysmetabolic Syndrome’ (previously named ‘Metabolic Syndrome’). It is also in the definition of the ‘Bathroom Scale’ test for diagnosing diabetes.
Before the term ‘obesity’ was used in the genetic context, it meant ‘characterized by having an excess of fatty tissue’, and this is how it is defined by the Merriam-Webster online dictionary.
The term ‘obese’ refers to a person who is obese, and ‘obeseness’ to the state of being obese. Before the term ‘obesity’ was used in the genetic context, it meant ‘characterized by having an excess of fatty tissue’.
The ‘obesity epidemic’ refers to the recent rapid increase in obesity rates. This increase has been shown to occur in most countries that have experienced rapid lifestyle changes involving diet, exercise, and general activity patterns. In the United States obesity is seen not only in adults but also in children. The tendency to gain weight has been termed ‘Adult-Onset’ or ‘Primary’ Obesity. This is different from ‘Secondary’ Obesity, which is the result of a specific secondary cause such as Cushing’s Syndrome or hypothyroidism.
Obesity is either inherited or acquired, although the dividing line between the two categories can be arbitrary. In general, Primary Obesity can sometimes run in families and is likely caused by multiple factors, including heredity. In contrast, Secondary Obesity usually results from medical conditions.
The terms ‘obese’ and ‘overweight’ can refer to different things. Someone can be ‘overweight’ but not ‘obese’. The term ‘obese’ includes anyone whose weight is greater than the medical norm. The range of weight that is regarded as being in the ‘overweight’ category can vary from one authority to another. The usual standard is to divide people into three groups:
People whose weight is up to 20 percent higher than the norm are regarded as ‘overweight’.
People whose weight is more than 20 percent higher than the norm are regarded as ‘obese’.
Body Mass Index (BMI) can be applied to people of any age. It is defined as the weight in kilograms divided by the square of the height in meters.
The following is from the National Institutes of Health:
BMI Percentile Charts:
CDC Growth Charts:
BMI for age and gender: Underweight: less than the 5th percentile. Healthy Weight: Between the 5th and 84th percentile. Overweight: Between the 85th and 94th percentile. Obese: Equal to or greater than the 95th percentile. Extreme Obesity: Equal to or greater than the 99th percentile.
Before discussing the effects of obesity on health, it is important to note that different bodies have different shapes. Some people carry more weight around their stomachs, while others have larger legs and arms. Thus, just because someone is overweight or even obese doesn’t mean they are unhealthy. There are some people who are obese and don’t have any of the health risks that typically come along with obesity.
The immediate effects of obesity on health involve problems directly relating to the excess weight. The strain that is put on the heart increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. In addition, carrying extra weight can also cause problems with joints and bones. The risk of injury is even greater in obese individuals. It can be difficult to move around easily, and this leads to a higher chance of falling.
Over half of falls that occur in older adults are related to excess weight. The chance of developing osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease, increases with the amount of excess pounds carried.
Obesity can increase the risk of some types of cancer. These include cancer of the esophagus, gallbladder, kidney, and multiple myeloma. There is also some evidence that obesity can increase the risk of bladder cancer.
Other risks include:
There are numerous non-health effects of obesity as well. These include social and psychological problems. Obesity can cause low self-esteem, especially in children who are bullied or teased because of their weight. It can also limit the ability to participate in certain activities such as sports.
Obesity is also linked to a decrease in income. This can lead to further social and psychological problems. Obesity can also cause problems with self-esteem and lead to eating disorders.
In addition, obese individuals often pay more for life insurance, which may cause money problems.
Obesity can also lead to social problems. In the United States, for instance, there is increasing acceptance of obesity. At the same time, there is increasing concern over terrorism and health emergencies. In an emergency, an obese person may be at a disadvantage, since excess weight can reduce the ability to evacuate quickly or even escape from a location. It can also be difficult for obese people to find suitable protective clothing.
Obesity can also affect interpersonal relationships, as it can be a source of shame and stigma. It can also interfere with sexual relationships.
In addition, obesity can be a source of social discrimination in the workplace. Obese people earn less money and are less likely to be promoted. They are also less likely to be hired in the first place.
Obesity can also cause problems with everyday activities. Heavy people have more difficulty getting around, and their chairs at work may not accommodate their size. As a result, their back and joints may suffer.
The causes of obesity are not fully understood. However, it is likely a combination of several factors, including genetics, environment, and lifestyle.
Obesity is partly a hereditary condition. In some cases, obesity can be caused by an underlying medical problem such as a hormonal imbalance. In these cases, the problem can be treated. Obesity can also be caused by certain medications.
However, the most common cause of obesity is an unhealthy diet and a lack of exercise. Obviously, this is a lifestyle choice. Obesity is also more common in people with low income, as they tend to eat a diet of cheap, processed foods.
Obesity rates are higher in people who:
Obese people are more likely to suffer from depression, so they are less likely to find the motivation to exercise or eat a balanced diet. The vicious cycle continues as depression itself can lead to weight gain.
Our brains react differently to foods with a high sugar content. Sugar can actually alter the way our brains produce dopamine, which makes us feel happy. This can make sugary foods difficult to resist.
The food industry is well aware of this, and takes advantage by adding large amounts of sugar to many of the foods we buy.
The same is not true for fat, which our bodies need in order to function. The food industry takes advantage of this, by adding large amounts of fat to many of the foods we buy.
This includes cheese, oil, and butter. The result is that many of the foods we find most delicious are also the unhealthiest.
Tastes can be learned. For most of human history, food has been scarce. When it is plentiful, we tend to overeat to store up for future times of scarcity.
As a result, food has come to be associated with feelings of comfort. Many people use it to deal with stress. Unfortunately, this includes the highly processed foods that are highest in fat and sugar.
This comfort food tends to be the least healthy, as it contains large amounts of fat and sugar with few nutrients.
Eventually, we become hungry again and seek out more food. This can lead to a vicious cycle of eating that is very difficult to break.
The food industry is well aware of how much it can profit by selling people food that is high in fat, sugar, and salt. These highly processed foods tend to be the cheapest for them to produce. As a result, we find these foods everywhere in our modern, commercial society. Restaurants, convenient stores, gas stations; you name it, and they’re probably selling food there.
The food industry spends a lot of money on advertising. Billboards, TV ads, and product placement have all been exploited by them. On top of this, many of these companies are viciously fighting attempts to make them disclose the health risks associated with their products.
As a result, it’s no wonder that people are confused about what constitutes a healthy diet.
Always eat breakfast? Only avoid carbs after 2:00pm?
The health profession is also confused, with disagreements on what to tell the public.
This all serves to confuse and overwhelm the average person, who just wants to do what’s best.
The obvious answer?
Eat less processed food and get more exercise.
Many people don’t have access to healthy food. This is especially common in low-income areas, where convenience stores sell food high in fat, salt, and sugar. These are cheap to buy, so they’re the most sold. People try to save money by buying these, with predictable results.
Healthcare in America is largely tied to employment. Many jobs have good insurance plans. However, these jobs are difficult to get for people without a college education. More importantly, many of these jobs are outsourced to countries with cheaper labor.
As a result, people are left with jobs that have poor insurance, if they’re lucky enough to find one at all. This forces people to pay out of pocket for their healthcare. Unsurprisingly, this is difficult for people already struggling to get by.
Most of us don’t need to visit a doctor often. However, accidents happen. One wrong move and we find ourselves in need of medical attention. Unfortunately, this is when we discover that we can’t afford it.
As a result, people without insurance are reluctant to go to the hospital if they’re in need of immediate care. This sometimes has fatal consequences.
The death of a loved one can be devastating.
Faced with such a loss, people often find themselves asking, “Why?”
Some people find the strength to move on. Others cling to the memory of their loved ones. These people often turn to religion, which provides them with a comforting explanation. They are told that their loved ones have moved on to a better place. This is often what keeps them motivated.
This is not just a personal matter. This affects the economy as a whole. When people are motivated, they earn money and spend it. This benefits the economy as a whole.
When people are depressed, they often withdraw from society. This results in them earning less money, and thus paying less in taxes. This can have a serious impact on government revenue.
With less money coming in, the government has to make cuts. This often results in layoffs in the police force and other vital services. This can make people feel less secure. This lowers how much they’re willing to spend, which creates a vicious cycle.
This results in an ever-growing population of unmotivated, depressed people. Crime increases, and the police are too overworked to respond. This causes people’s confidence in the police to plummet, which further reduces their motivation to work hard.
In time, these factors perpetuate a cycle of poverty. This causes the economy to suffer, and continues the cycle.
Well, you should be. This is the future of America if we don’t take steps to prevent it right now.
Fortunately, we have a solution. It isn’t a perfect one, but then nothing ever is.
When a person is suffering from depression, they often withdraw from society. The obvious solution is to get these people back into the workforce.
This can be difficult. These people often lack the resources to improve their own lives. Thankfully, there are charities that help people get back on their feet. Low-income jobs can also help people earn a wage.
One program that helps people get back on their feet is called Jobs for Cash. This is a program where people donate money that is given to people in need of work.
The program works by depositing money into a person’s account. The amount depends on the person, but it’s often around $100. This can be a struggle in some places, but it helps in others.
You can apply to this program by filling out an application. You can pick one up at any post office.
Please consider doing your part to help end the cycle of poverty.
We can make a difference together.
Sources & references used in this article:
- Genome wide association (GWA) study for early onset extreme obesity supports the role of fat mass and obesity associated gene (FTO) variants (A Hinney, TT Nguyen, A Scherag, S Friedel, G Brönner… – PloS one, 2007 – journals.plos.org)
- The common rs9939609 gene variant of the fat mass-and obesity-associated gene FTO is related to fat cell lipolysis (K Wåhlén, E Sjölin, J Hoffstedt – Journal of lipid research, 2008 – ASBMB)
- The fat mass and obesity associated gene (Fto) regulates activity of the dopaminergic midbrain circuitry (ME Hess, S Hess, KD Meyer, LAW Verhagen… – Nature …, 2013 – nature.com)
- The fat mass and obesity associated gene FTO functions in the brain to regulate postnatal growth in mice (X Gao, YH Shin, M Li, F Wang, Q Tong, P Zhang – PloS one, 2010 – journals.plos.org)
- The role of the fat mass and obesity associated gene (FTO) in breast cancer risk (V Kaklamani, N Yi, M Sadim, K Siziopikou, K Zhang… – BMC medical …, 2011 – Springer)
- ‘Fat mass and obesity associated’ gene (FTO): No significant association of variant rs9939609 with weight loss in a lifestyle intervention and lipid metabolism … (TD Müller, A Hinney, A Scherag, TT Nguyen… – BMC medical …, 2008 – Springer)
- Large effects on body mass index and insulin resistance of fat mass and obesity associated gene (FTO) variants in patients with polycystic ovary syndrome … (S Tan, A Scherag, OE Janssen, S Hahn, H Lahner… – BMC medical …, 2010 – Springer)
- A variant in the fat mass and obesity-associated gene (FTO) and variants near the melanocortin-4 receptor gene (MC4R) do not influence dietary intake (AL Hasselbalch, L Angquist, L Christiansen… – The Journal of …, 2010 – academic.oup.com)
- Genetic variation in the fat mass and obesity-associated gene (FTO) in association with food preferences in healthy adults (L Brunkwall, U Ericson, S Hellstrand… – Food & nutrition …, 2013 – Taylor & Francis)