Berries in Prevention of Metabolic Disease – focus on obesity, diabetes and gut microbiota
Abstract: The increasing prevalence of obesity is a worldwide health problem closely linked to diet and lifestyle factors. Obesity is associated with increased risk of several metabolic disorders including insulin resistance, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and type 2 diabetes. Hence, there is a great need to identify dietary strategies for the prevention of obesity and related diseases. This thesis investigates the potential of different berries to mediate beneficial health effects in a mouse model of diet-induced obesity and prediabetes. We found that supplementation with lingonberries, blackcurrants and bilberries reduced body weight gain, insulin resistance, low-grade inflammation and hepatic lipid accumulation in C57BL/6J mice fed a high-fat diet. Supplementation with raspberries, crowberries, blackberries or prunes had no or small effects, whereas açai berries promoted development of obesity and fatty liver compared to the control group receiving high-fat diet without berries. Global hepatic gene expression analysis revealed that the phenotype in the lingonberry and bilberry groups was coupled to an anti-inflammatory effect, including downregulation of acute-phase proteins and inflammatory mediators. Mice receiving açai displayed an upregulation of steatosis markers and genes related to lipid synthesis, in line with the exacerbation of high-fat-induced fatty liver in these mice. The HELP-tagging assay was used to identify differentially methylated CpG sites in the lingonberry group compared to the high-fat control group. Lingonberries induced genome-wide and specific alterations of DNA methylation, however the significance of these findings remains to be established. Furthermore, different batches of lingonberries were found to have different capacity to prevent obesity. However lingonberries prevented low-grade inflammation, metabolic endotoxemia and modified the gut microbiota of high-fat fed mice, including increasing the Firmicutes/Bacteroidetes ratio. These findings were independent of effects on body weight gain and achieved regardless of the source of berries. The capacity of lingonberries to counteract negative outcomes of an unhealthy diet should be further evaluated in humans, including assessment of anti-inflammation and microbiota modulation. The generated knowledge about berries and their effects on metabolism may be useful in designing future dietary strategies aimed at preventing metabolic disease.
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