Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the preferred term to describe the spectrum of liver damage ranging from hepatic steatosis to steatohepatitis, liver fibrosis, and cirrhosis, and it is emerging as the most common liver disease in industrialized countries. Thus, the discovery of food components that would ameliorate NAFLD is of interest. Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a mixture of positional and geometric isomers of linoleic acid, has attracted considerable attention because of its potentially beneficial biological effects both in vitro and in vivo. We tested whether dietary CLA protects Zucker (fa/fa) rats from hepatic injury. After 8 wk of feeding, hepatomegaly, hepatic triglyceride (TG) accumulation, and elevated hepatic injury markers in plasma were markedly alleviated in CLA-fed Zucker rats compared with linoleic acid-fed (control) rats. These effects were attributed in part to the enhanced hepatic activities of carnitine palmitoyltransferase, a key enzyme of fatty acid β-oxidation, and microsomal TG transfer protein, an important factor for lipoprotein secretion due to the CLA diet. We previously reported that the severe hyperinsulinemia in control Zucker rats was attenuated in CLA-fed rats due to an enhanced level of plasma adiponectin, which improves insulin sensitivity. In the present study, the adiponectin concentration was increased and the mRNA expression of tumor necrosis factor-α, an inflammatory cytokine, was markedly suppressed in the liver of CLA-fed Zucker rats. We speculate that the enhanced level of liver adiponectin may prevent the development and progression of NAFLD in CLA-fed Zucker rats.
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