May 13, 2009 PhD research at the University of the Basque Country UPV/EHU have studied the effect of reservatrol — a molecule of plant origin present in wine and several fruits — in rats with non-alcoholic hepatic esteatosis, an accumulation of fat in the liver when alcohol is not involved.
The author of the thesis is Ms Elizabeth Hijona Muruamendiaraz, a graduate in Biochemistry specialising in Dietetics and Nutrition, and has entitled her PhD, Effect of resveratrol on simple, non-alcoholic hepatic esteatosis in a murine model.*
Molecule of plant origin
Resveratrol has antioxidant capacities and it is found in many fruits such as grape, walnuts, peanuts, etc. The aim of the thesis was to investigate if resveratrol reduces ESNA in a model of esteatosis in rats.
To this end, three experimental groups of rats were studied. The first is a control group with free access to food and water. The second is a group affected by esteatosis and that was subjected to a diet high in carbohydrates, lipid-free and with periods of fasting. The third group, also affected by esteatosis, was kept under the same conditions as group two with the difference that their members were supplied daily with 10 mg of resveratrol.
Alter four weeks, samples of liver and blood were taken from individuals of the three different groups for their subsequent analysis. It was shown that in the third group - the one treated with resveratrol -, infiltration of liver fat dropped in comparison with group two. After this and a number of other analyses, the researcher concluded that resveratrol reduces the severity of ESNA in models with rats because, in the animals treated with resveratrol, the percentage of the cells of affected liver cells was notably less in non-treated animals.
Moreover, Ms Hijona was able to see that, when the resveratrol was administered, the production of pro-oxidant substances — favouring cell oxidation — was reduced, and natural antioxidants of the liver were better conserved. Thus it was concluded that resveratrol is capable of maintaining the balance between antioxidant and pro-oxidant substances.
Finally, the administration of resveratrol reduces the number of Kupffer cells in the liver — the presence of these cells is associated with the progression of ESNA —, and so can inhibit the development of other injuries to the liver, such as fibrosis.
According to Ms Elizabeth Hijona, the results of the study show that we should be careful with food habits, given that a simple change in the periods of fasting, combined with a diet rich in carbohydrates, can manage to cause serious liver problems. This is why the administration of natural antioxidants such as resveratrol — two glasses of wine a day, for example— helps to considerably reduce the accumulation of fat in the liver.
*The director of the thesis was Luis Bujanda Fernández de Piérola from the department of Physiology at the Faculty of Medicine and Odontology at the UPV/EHU. Ms Elizabeth Hijona is currently working as a researcher in Digestive Systems at the Hospital Donostia.
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