Medical Research: What is the background for this study?
Response: Our laboratory has been interested for quite some time in the relationship that natural, plant-derived compounds have on various tissues in the body. Both bone and adipocytes are derived from the same progenitor cell, mesenchymal stem cells. Thus, if a drug or compound affects one type of cell, it may affect both. When women transition through menopause, and see a reduction in their female sex hormones like estrogen, they can see adverse changes in both how much fat they store and their bone density. Thus our lab is interested in compounds that can be used to prevent the bone loss and visceral adipogenesis that menopausal women often experience. Previous work both in vivo and in vitro has shown that phytochemicals have synergistic effects and thus can ultimately work together to reduce the dosages needed to promote overall health. Through this work we have identified a combination of genistein, resveratrol, quercetin and Vitamin D that improve bone density in addition to promoting apoptosis of adipocytes. However, the health of the liver had never been addressed with our phytochemical blend. We know that supplements are sometimes toxic to the liver for many different reasons. Thus, it was very important for us to address the toxicity and potential risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease with our phytochemical blend in a menopausal rat model.
Medical Research: What are the main findings?
Response: We found that our dietary phytochemical blend caused fat to be mobilized from adipose tissue to the liver in ovariectomized rats. While this did induce increased fat accumulation in the liver, we found that our dose did not promote apoptosis or fibrosis expression in the liver. Furthermore, liver function tests also came back normal and we saw a complete reversal of increased serum ALT caused by ovariectomy. Thus, our phytochemical blend promoted hepatic health despite ovariectomy and steatosis.
Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?
Response: Firstly, one must be careful with over-the-counter dietary supplements. Research has shown that they often don’t contain the correct dosage of the compounds that are on the label and/or may contain various contaminates. Furthermore, they are often not effective because the doses used in animal models are much, much higher than what you get in 1 or 2 pills. Our study demonstrates that by taking advantage of the synergy between the phytochemicals we can get the doses down to levels that are more realistic, may improve bone and metabolic health, and have no detrimental impact on the liver. While this is great news, I still want to note that there are obvious pitfalls with dietary supplements that need to be addressed. If one wants to avoid dietary supplements, consuming a wide variety of fruits and vegetables is also a fantastic way of taking advantage of the phytochemicals and their synergy.
Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Response: Because there is no FDA approved treatment for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) yet, this area of work is still very novel. Thus, it would be great to see if these phytochemicals have any impact on preventing the severity of NAFLD in a human model. Lastly, we know that females have reduced levels of NAFLD compared to males, and that this sex difference reverses when females go through menopause. However, there is very little research on why this sex difference exists on a very basic level. It is important to note that many diseases have sex-specific mechanisms that relate to its development or prevention, and thus would impact its treatment. Because of this, we as researchers need to address both sexes in our studies. My hope for the field in general is that we will see more research that addresses sex-specific mechanisms behind metabolic diseases.
MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Colette Nicole Miller FDN (2015). Phytochemical May Prevent Liver Damage In Women Post Menopause