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BMC Med. 2011 Jun 8;9:71. doi: 10.1186/1741-7015-9-71.

FTO gene polymorphisms and obesity risk: a meta-analysis.

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Department of Pathology, Zhejiang University School of Medicine, Hangzhou, PR China.



The pathogenesis of obesity is reportedly related to variations in the fat mass and an obesity-associated gene (FTO); however, as the number of reports increases, particularly with respect to varying ethnicities, there is a need to determine more precisely the effect sizes in each ethnic group. In addition, some reports have claimed ethnic-specific associations with alternative SNPs, and to that end there has been a degree of confusion.


We searched PubMed, MEDLINE, Web of Science, EMBASE, and BIOSIS Preview to identify studies investigating the associations between the five polymorphisms and obesity risk. Individual study odds ratios (OR) and their 95% confidence intervals (CI) were estimated using per-allele comparison. Summary ORs were estimated using a random effects model.


We identified 59 eligible case-control studies in 27 articles, investigating 41,734 obesity cases and 69,837 healthy controls. Significant associations were detected between obesity risk and the five polymorphisms: rs9939609 (OR: 1.31, 95% CI: 1.26 to 1.36), rs1421085 (OR: 1.43, 95% CI: 1.33 to 1.53), rs8050136 (OR: 1.25, 95% CI: 1.13 to 1.38), rs17817449 (OR: 1.54, 95% CI: 1.41 to 1.68), and rs1121980 (OR: 1.34, 95% CI: 1.10 to 1.62). Begg's and Egger's tests provided no evidence of publication bias for the polymorphisms except rs1121980. There is evidence of higher heterogeneity, with I2 test values ranging from 38.1% to 84.5%.


This meta-analysis suggests that FTO may represent a low-penetrance susceptible gene for obesity risk. Individual studies with large sample size are needed to further evaluate the associations between the polymorphisms and obesity risk in various ethnic populations.

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