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Reveratrol May Protect Agaisnt Fatty Liver Disease

Dr. Lee Swanson

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Resveratrol, a polyphenol found in red wine, may prevent against the development of fatty liver disease associated with chronic alcohol consumption, according to a study published in the American Journal of Physiology-Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology.

The new study, performed with mice, found that resveratrol may activate two molecules that play a role in cell signaling and the breakdown of fats in the liver: AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) and sirtuin 1 (SIRT1). These molecules are reportedly inhibited by alcohol, leading to fat build-up and fatty liver.

Although expert advice is clearly to avoid excessive alcohol consumption altogether, the results suggest alcoholics could benefit from upping their intake of resveratrol-rich foods.

Previous research has linked the potential health benefits of wine to resveratrol, a powerful polyphenol and anti-fungal chemical that occurs naturally under the skin of red wine grapes. It is often touted as the bioactive compound in grapes and red wine, and has particularly been associated with the so-called "French Paradox," a phrase used to describe the low incidence of heart disease and obesity among the French, despite their relatively high-fat diet and levels of wine consumption.

The researchers, led by Joanne Ajmo of the Departments of Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology, University of South Florida Health Sciences Center, studied the effects of resveratrol at a molecular level. Mice were divided into groups and all of them were fed a low-fat diet. One group of the mice had their diets supplemented with resveratrol, one group was supplemented with resveratrol, plus alcohol (ethanol); one group with only ethanol and one group consumed only the diet (control group).

At the end of the experiment, Ajmo and her co-workers report that, as they expected, resveratrol increased the expression of SIRT1 and stimulated the activity of AMPK in the livers of alcohol-fed mice. Furthermore, these increases were associated with changes in the levels of other molecules that control fat metabolism, including adiponectin, a hormone produced by fat cells, which helps control obesity. Such changes are reported to prevent the accumulation of fat in the mouse liver by both reducing the production of fat and increasing the burning of the fat already present.

"Our study suggests that resveratrol may serve as a promising agent for preventing human alcoholic fatty liver disease," concluded the authors.

American Journal of Physiology-Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology 295:G833-G842, 2008