The fat mass and obesity associated gene (FTO) was the first gene identified by genome-wide association studies to correlate with higher body mass index (BMI) and increased odds of obesity. FTO remains the locus with the largest and most replicated effect on body weight, but the mechanism whereby FTO affects body weight and the development of obesity is not fully understood. Here we tested whether FTO is associated with differences in food cravings and a key aspect of dopamine function that has been hypothesized to influence food reward mechanisms. Moreover, as food cravings and dopamine function are known to decline with age, we explored effects of age on relations between FTO and food cravings and dopamine function. Seven-eight healthy subjects between 22 and 83years old completed the Food Cravings Questionnaire and underwent genotyping for FTO rs9939609, the first FTO single nucleotide polymorphism associated with obesity. Compared to TT homozygotes, individuals carrying the obesity-susceptible A allele had higher total food cravings, which correlated with higher BMI. Additionally, food cravings declined with age, but this age effect differed across variants of FTO rs9939609: while TT homozygotes showed the typical age-related decline in food cravings, there was no such decline among A carriers. All subjects were scanned with [18F]fallypride PET to assess a recent proposal that at the neurochemical level FTO alters dopamine D2-like receptor (DRD2) function to influence food reward related mechanisms. However, we observed no evidence of FTO effects on DRD2 availability.
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