Antioxidant may help prevent liver disease: Study

Study finds common antioxidant can protect against nonalcoholic fatty liver disease in mice.
By Amy Wallace  |  Jan. 3, 2017 at 1:03 PM
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AURORA, Colo., Jan. 3 (UPI) -- A common antioxidant found in breast milk and kiwi fruit may prevent nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, or NAFLD, in laboratory mice, according to a research study.

Researchers at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus fed obese mice pyrroloquinoline quinone, or PQQ, a natural antioxidant found in many foods such as soy, parsley, celery, kiwi, papaya and human breast milk.

"When given to obese mouse mothers during pregnancy and lactation, we found it protected their offspring from developing symptoms of liver fat and damage that leads to NAFLD in early adulthood," Karen Jonscher, Ph.D., lead author, associate professor of anesthesiology and physicist at CU Anschutz, said in a press release.

NAFLD, the most common liver disease in the world, affects 20 to 30 percent of all adults in the United States and more than 60 percent of those adults are obese. NAFLD increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer.

"We know that infants born to mothers with obesity have a greater chance of developing NAFLD over their lifetime, and in fact one-third of obese children under 18 may have undiagnosed fatty liver disease that , when discovered, is more likely to be advanced at the time of diagnosis," Jonscher said. "The goal of our study, which we carried out using a mouse model of obese pregnancy, was to determine whether a novel antioxidant given to mothers during pregnancy and breastfeeding could prevent the development of NAFLD in the offspring."

Researchers fed the adult mice either healthy diets or Western-style diets heavy on fat, sugar and cholesterol, while also giving both groups PQQ in their drinking water. The offspring were also put on the two types of diets for a 20-week period.

Results showed that while PQQ did not change weight gain, it did reduce the fat in the livers even before the mice were born.

PQQ also reduced inflammation in the livers of mice fed the Western-style diet and that it protected adult mice from fatty liver, even when it was stopped after three weeks when breastfeeding ended.

The antioxidant works by impacting pathways crucial to the early onset of diseases associated with maternal obesity, high-fat diets and inflammation.

"Perhaps supplementing the diet of obese pregnant mothers with PQQ, which has proven safe in several human studies, will be a therapeutic target worthy of more study in the battle to reduce the risk of NAFLD in babies," Jonscher said.

The study was published in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.

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