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07-06-2011 | Cardiometabolic | Article

APOE gene variant may protect against obesity complications


Free abstract

MedWire News: An apolipoprotein E gene (APOE) variant may protect against some of the complications of obesity, results of a Brazilian study suggest.

Jacque Alvarez-Leite (Federal University of Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte) and colleagues found that the ε4 allele of APOE was associated with a significantly lower frequency of the metabolic syndrome and hypertension in patients with grade III obesity (body mass index [BMI] >40 kg/m2).

They say these findings "may allow clinicians to identify patients who would benefit from the early treatment of severe obesity."

Previous studies have revealed significant associations between obesity and the metabolic syndrome. In addition, polymorphisms of APOE have been linked to the presence of the metabolic syndrome.

In this study, Alvarez-Leite and team investigated the association between the metabolic syndrome and APOE polymorphisms in 147 grade III obese patients. The mean age of the participants was 41 years, the mean BMI was 53.5 kg/m2, and 86.4% were female.

The metabolic syndrome, defined according to the American Heart Association criteria, adapted to replace waist circumference with BMI, was present in 79% of participants.

As expected, the researchers found that the ε3 allele of APOE was most frequent in the study population, at 80.9%, followed by the ε2 and ε4 alleles, which had frequencies of 10.5% and 8.5%, respectively.

While there was no significant difference in the frequency of the ε2 or ε3 allele among patients with and without the metabolic syndrome, the ε4 allele was significantly more frequent in individuals without the metabolic syndrome than those with the syndrome, at 16.1% versus 6.5%, respectively.

In addition, 19.8% of patients with the metabolic syndrome presented with the ε2ε3 genotype, compared with just 8.7% of those with the ε3ε4 or ε4ε4 genotypes combined.

When the researchers analyzed the influence of the APOE alleles and genotypes on the metabolic syndrome variables, they found that hypertension was significantly less prevalent among individuals with the ε4 allele compared with those with the ε3 allele (90.0 vs 93.7%, respectively).

"These data suggest that the ε4 allele is associated with fewer complications of obesity," conclude the authors in the journal Clinica Chimica Acta.

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011

By Nikki Withers