, Volume 52, Issue 2, pp 247-252
Date: 13 Nov 2008

FTO gene variants are strongly associated with type 2 diabetes in South Asian Indians


Aims and hypothesis

Variants of the FTO (fat mass and obesity associated) gene are associated with obesity and type 2 diabetes in white Europeans, but these associations are not consistent in Asians. A recent study in Asian Indian Sikhs showed an association with type 2 diabetes that did not seem to be mediated through BMI. We studied the association of FTO variants with type 2 diabetes and measures of obesity in South Asian Indians in Pune.


We genotyped, by sequencing, two single nucleotide polymorphisms, rs9939609 and rs7191344, in the FTO gene in 1,453 type 2 diabetes patients and 1,361 controls from Pune, Western India and a further 961 population-based individuals from Mysore, South India.


We observed a strong association of the minor allele A at rs9939609 with type 2 diabetes (OR per allele 1.26; 95% CI 1.13–1.40; p = 3 × 10−5). The variant was also associated with BMI but this association appeared to be weaker (0.06 SDs; 95% CI 0.01–0.10) than the previously reported effect in Europeans (0.10 SDs; 95% CI 0.09–0.12; heterogeneity p = 0.06). Unlike in the Europeans, the association with type 2 diabetes remained significant after adjusting for BMI (OR per allele for type 2 diabetes 1.21; 95% CI 1.06–1.37; p = 4.0 × 10−3), and also for waist circumference and other anthropometric variables.


Our study replicates the strong association of FTO variants with type 2 diabetes and similar to the study in North Indians Sikhs, shows that this association may not be entirely mediated through BMI. This could imply underlying differences between Indians and Europeans in the mechanisms linking body size with type 2 diabetes.

C. S. Janipalli, S. Bhaskar, S. R. Kulkarni and R. M. Freathy contributed equally to this study.