Men who regularly consume Western diet - which is high in fat and sugar - may be at a higher risk of developing chronic inflammation of the liver, a study warns.
Researchers from the University of California, Davis in the US, found that liver inflammation was most pronounced in Western diet-fed male mice that also lacked farnesoid x receptor (FXR), a bile acid receptor.
"Gut and liver health are linked. It is clear that microbial imbalance and dysregulated bile acid synthesis are inseparable, and they jointly contribute to hepatic inflammation via the gut-liver axis," said Yu-Jui Yvonne Wan, professor at UC Davis.
Researchers used a FXR-deficient mouse model as it helps better understand the role of diet and inflammation in the development of liver diseases including cancer because patients with cirrhosis or liver cancer also have low FXR levels.
They fed wild-type and FXR-deficient mice either a Western diet or a matching control diet for 10 months.
Researchers found similarities between western diet intake and FXR deficiency. For instance, both Western diet- fed wild-type mice and control diet-fed FXR KO mice developed steatosis, which also was more severe in males than females.
However, only the FXR-deficient male mice had massive lymphocyte and neutrophil infiltration in the liver, and only Western diet-fed male FXR KO mice had fatty adenomas.
"These studies show that a Western diet intake and FXR inactivation also increased hepatic inflammatory signalling, with a combined enhanced effect," said Yu-Jui Yvonne Wan, professor at UC Davis.
"We know the transition from steatosis, or fatty liver, to steatohepatitis (inflammation in the fatty liver) plays a crucial role in liver injury and carcinogenesis," Wan said.
Because the liver receives 70 per cent of its blood supply from the intestine, it is important to understand how the gut contributes to liver disease development, he said.
Additional analysis showed that many inflammatory genes had higher expression levels in Western diet than control diet-fed FXR KO mice after treatment.
"Our results suggest that probiotics and FXR agonists hold promise for the prevention and treatment of hepatic inflammation and progression into advanced liver diseases such as cancer," Wan said.
The study was published in The American Journal of Pathology.
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