Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Obesity, genes and Alzheimer's disease

FTO is a gene associated with obesity. People with one copy of it are on average 1.5kg heavier than average and people with two copies of it are 3kg heavier. The gene is carried by 46% of Western Europeans and researchers from California University now think it may also be associated with Alzheimer's disease. The scientists found that those people with the variation had 8% fewer cells in the frontal lobe of the brain and 12% less in the occipital lobe - areas associated with complex judgments and the processing of mental imagery respectively. Obesity increases the risk of dementia because it can lead to damage to the blood vessels in the brain, in turn leading to damage to brain cells but the differences could not be attributed to cholesterol levels, diabetes or high-blood pressure.

You can find out more about this research at


Another study into the links between genetics and Alzheimer's disease, also carried out by researchers at the University of California looked into the effect of variations in a gene called Catechol-O-Methyltransferase (COMT). A sample of 2,858 African-American and Caucasian people between the ages of 70 and 79 were studied over an eight-year period. Their DNA was analyzed and they were tested on their language, concentration and memory, response time and attention. People with the 'Met' variant of the gene experienced a greater decline in their thinking skills over the years while people with the 'Val' variant scored, on average, 32% better if they were Caucasian and 48% better if they were African-American.

You can find out more about this research at


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