An “obesity gene” known as FTO could also increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, according to research presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease 2010 in Honolulu, US.

The research followed 1,003 people aged 75 or older for nine years to detect new cases of Alzheimer’s and dementia. None of the participants had dementia when the research began, but all had been genotyped for FTO.

The studies concluded that those who carried the FTO gene had a 58% increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s and a 48% increased risk for developing dementia in comparison to those who did not have the genetic variant, after adjustments for age, gender, education and apolipoprotein E genotype.

Karolinska Institutet scientist Caroline Graff, MD, PhD, added that these results needed to be confirmed by other researchers in order to develop additional targets for therapies and preventions, and for the federal government to address funding of research into Alzheimer’s disease.

FTO has been previously shown to affect BMI, leptin levels and the risk of diabetes.