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Obesity Gene, Carried by More Than a Third of the US Population, Leads to Brain Tissue Loss

(Science Daily) Three years ago, geneticists reported the startling discovery that nearly half of all people in the U.S. with European ancestry carry a variant of the fat mass and obesity associated (FTO) gene, which causes them to gain weight -- from three to seven pounds, on average -- but worse, puts them at risk for obesity.

Now, UCLA researchers have found that the same gene allele, which is also carried by roughly one-quarter of U.S. Hispanics, 15 percent of African Americans and 15 percent of Asian Americans, may have another deleterious effect…

[Senior study author Paul Thompson and colleagues] found that the FTO variant is also associated with a loss of brain tissue. This puts more than a third of the U.S. population at risk for a variety of diseases, such as Alzheimer's…

But the news is not necessarily completely negative, [senior study author Paul] Thompson said, because "carriers of the risk gene can exercise and eat healthily to resist both obesity and brain decline."…

"Half of the world carries this dangerous gene. But a healthy lifestyle will counteract the risk of brain loss, whether you carry the gene or not. So it's vital to boost your brain health by being physically active and eating a balanced diet," he said.

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