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Lipids. 2000 Apr;35(4):427-35.

Effects of dietary phenolic compounds on tocopherol, cholesterol, and fatty acids in rats.

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Department of Food Science, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala.


The effects of the phenolic compounds butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), sesamin (S), curcumin (CU), and ferulic acid (FA) on plasma, liver, and lung concentrations of alpha- and gamma-tocopherols (T), on plasma and liver cholesterol, and on the fatty acid composition of liver lipids were studied in male Sprague-Dawley rats. Test compounds were given to rats ad libitum for 4 wk at 4 g/kg diet, in a diet low but adequate in vitamin E (36 mg/kg of gamma-T and 25 mg/kg of alpha-T) and containing 2 g/kg of cholesterol. BHT significantly reduced feed intake (P < 0.05) and body weight and increased feed conversion ratio; S and BHT caused a significant enlargement of the liver (P < 0.001), whereas CU and FA did not affect any of these parameters. The amount of liver lipids was significantly lowered by BHT (P < 0.01) while the other substances reduced liver lipid concentrations but not significantly. Regarding effects on tocopherol levels, (i) feeding of BHT resulted in a significant elevation (P< 0.001) of alpha-T in plasma, liver, and lung, while gamma-T values remained unchanged; (ii) rats provided with the S diet had substantially higher gamma-T levels (P < 0.001) in plasma, liver, and lung, whereas alpha-T levels were not affected; (iii) administration of CU raised the concentration of alpha-T in the lung (P < 0.01) but did not affect the plasma or liver values of any of the tocopherols; and (iv) FA had no effect on the levels of either homolog in the plasma, liver, or lung. The level of an unknown substance in the liver was significantly reduced by dietary BHT (P < 0.001). BHT was the only compound that tended to increase total cholesterol (TC) in plasma, due to an elevation of cholesterol in the very low density lipoprotein + low density lipoprotein (VLDL + LDL) fraction. S and FA tended to lower plasma total and VLDL + LDL cholesterol concentrations, but the effect for CU was statistically significant (P < 0.05). FA increased plasma high density lipoprotein cholesterol while the other compounds reduced it numerically, but not significantly. BHT, CU, and S reduced cholesterol levels in the liver TC (P < 0.001) and percentages of TC in liver lipids (P < 0.05). With regard to the fatty acid composition of liver lipids, S increased the n-6/n-3 and the 18:3/20:5 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) ratios, and BHT lowered total monounsaturated fatty acids and increased total PUFA (n-6 + n-3). The effects of CU and FA on fatty acids were not highly significant. These results suggest some in vivo interactions between these phenolic compounds and tocopherols that may increase the bioavailability of vitamin E and decrease cholesterol in rats.

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