FTO gene and fat cell metabolism link to obesity

Urmeli Katus
About the Author

Urmeli Joost is a PhD student at the Institute of Family Medicine and Public Health, University of Tartu, Estonia. Her main focus of research is the genetic, environmental and behavioural factors in obesity, dyslipidemia and glucose metabolism.

Background and aims

Fat mass and obesity-associated protein (FTO) variants are among genetic variants frequently associated with obesity. We analyzed the association between FTO rs1421085 polymorphism and obesity, dietary intake, cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF), physical activity, and socioeconomic status (SES) from the age of 9–25 years.

Methods and results

The sample included both birth cohorts (originally n = 1176) of the Estonian Children Personality Behaviour and Health Study. The association between FTO rs1421085 and obesity, dietary intake, CRF, physical activity, and SES from the age of 15–25 years was assessed using linear mixed-effects regression models. Associations at ages 9 (younger cohort only), 15, 18, and 25 years were assessed by one-way ANOVA. Male C-allele carriers had significantly (p < 0.05) higher body mass index (BMI), sum of 5 skinfolds, body fat percentage, and hip circumference from the age of 15–25 years. Findings were similar at the age of 9 years. In female subjects, waist-to-hip ratio was significantly greater in CC homozygotes. Interestingly, female CC homozygotes had a greater decrease in the rate of change in daily energy intake and lipid intake per year and higher physical activity score at every fixed time point. Moreover, in females, an effect of FTO × SES interaction on measures of obesity was observed.


The FTO rs1421085 polymorphism was associated with obesity and abdominal obesity from childhood to young adulthood in males, and with abdominal obesity from adolescence to young adulthood in females. This association is rather related to differences in adipocyte energy metabolism than lifestyle.

Publication information

Title: Association of FTO rs1421085 with obesity, diet, physical activity, and socioeconomic status: A longitudinal birth cohort study

Authors:  Urmeli Katus, Inga Villa, Inge Ringmets, Mariliis Vaht, Evelin Mäestu, Jarek Mäestu, Toomas Veidebaum, Jaanus Harro

Journal: NMCD-Journal;

Year: 2020

Url: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.numecd.2020.02.008