Obesity is a growing problem in the United States. The ]]>Weight-control Information Network]]>, a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease (NIDDK) states that 35.5 percent of women ages 20 and over are obese; a person is considered obese if she has a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or over. Being overweight puts people at risk for certain health issues, including neurological problems.
]]>Reuters Health]]> reports that people who have a variant of the FTO gene have smaller brain volumes; more than one-third of the United States population has this gene variation. The FTO gene is located on chromosome 16, specifically at 16q12.2, according to the ]]>Weizmann Institute of Science]]>. The reduced brain volume from the FTO gene variation puts people at risk for Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's disease affects the patients' brains, resulting in physiological changes, such as tangles and plaques. The ]]>National Institutes of Health (NIH)]]> defines tangles as “twisted fragments of protein within nerve cells” and plaques as “abnormal clusters of dead and dying nerve cells.”
Patients with Alzheimer's disease experience problems with language, memory and other cognitive functions. In the early stage of the disorder, patients have problems remembering recent events, misplace items, lose interest in activities and have personality changes. As the disorder progresses, patients have more severe memory and language problems, have difficulty taking care of themselves, and withdraw from people around them. They may also experience hallucinations and delusions. By the late stage of Alzheimer's disease, patients do not recognize family members, do not understand language and cannot take care of themselves.
So how does the FTO gene variation put people at risk for Alzheimer's disease?