Link established between western diets high in fat and sugar and the development of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, the leading cause of chronic liver disease
The University of Missouri School of Medicine has carried out research which establishes a link between western diets high in fat and sugar and the development of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. It is worth noting that non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is the leading cause of chronic liver disease.
Specifically, the research has identified the western diet-induced microbial and metabolic contributors to liver disease. This helps further our knowledge and understanding of the gut-liver axis and, in turn, the development of dietary and microbial interventions for this global health epidemic.
‘We’re just beginning to understand how food and gut microbiota interact to produce metabolites that contribute to the development of liver disease’
“We’re just beginning to understand how food and gut microbiota interact to produce metabolites that contribute to the development of liver disease,” said co-principal investigator, Guangfu Li, PhD, DVM, associate professor in the department of surgery and Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology.
“However, the specific bacteria and metabolites, as well as the underlying mechanisms were not well understood until now. This research is unlocking the how and why.”
The gut and liver are closely connected anatomically and functionally via the portal vein.
Western diets, high in fat and sugar, change the gut microbiota, resulting in the production of pathogenic factors that impact the liver and can cause non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
To test this, the research team fed mice food high in fat and sugar and found that the mice developed a gut bacteria called Blautia producta and a lipid that caused liver inflammation and fibrosis. This caused the mice to develop non-alcoholic steatohepatitis or fatty liver disease, with similar features to the human disease, called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Fatty liver disease is a global health epidemic
“Fatty liver disease is a global health epidemic,” Kevin Staveley-O’Carroll, MD, PhD, professor in the department of surgery, one of the lead researchers, explains, “Not only is it becoming the leading cause of liver cancer and cirrhosis, but many patients I see with other cancers have fatty liver disease and don’t even know it. Often, this makes it impossible for them to undergo potentially curative surgery for their other cancers.”
The research team tested treating the mice with an antibiotic cocktail administered via drinking water and discovered that the antibiotic treatment reduced liver inflammation and lipid accumulation. This equated to an overall reduction in fatty liver disease.
This suggests that antibiotic-induced changes in the gut microbiota can suppress inflammatory responses and liver fibrosis.
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