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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2013 May;1832(5):685-95. doi: 10.1016/j.bbadis.2013.02.003. Epub 2013 Feb 11.

Prevention and reversal of hepatic steatosis with a high-protein diet in mice.

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Department of Anatomy & Embryology, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands.


The hallmark of NAFLD is steatosis of unknown etiology. We tested the effect of a high-protein (HP)(2) diet on diet-induced steatosis in male C57BL/6 mice with and without pre-existing fatty liver. Mice were fed all combinations of semisynthetic low-fat (LF) or high-fat (HF) and low-protein (LP) or HP diets for 3weeks. To control for reduced energy intake by HF/HP-fed mice, a pair-fed HF/LP group was included. Reversibility of pre-existing steatosis was investigated by sequentially feeding HF/LP and HF/HP diets. HP-containing diets decreased hepatic lipids to ~40% of corresponding LP-containing diets, were more efficient in this respect than reducing energy intake to 80%, and reversed pre-existing diet-induced steatosis. Compared to LP-containing diets, mice fed HP-containing diets showed increased mitochondrial oxidative capacity (elevated Pgc1α, mAco, and Cpt1 mRNAs, complex-V protein, and decreased plasma free and short-chain acyl-carnitines, and [C0]/[C16+C18] carnitine ratio); increased gluconeogenesis and pyruvate cycling (increased PCK1 protein and fed plasma-glucose concentration without increased G6pase mRNA); reduced fatty-acid desaturation (decreased Scd1 expression and [C16:1n-7]/[C16:0] ratio) and increased long-chain PUFA elongation; a selective increase in plasma branched-chain amino acids; a decrease in cell stress (reduced phosphorylated eIF2α, and Fgf21 and Chop expression); and a trend toward less inflammation (lower Mcp1 and Cd11b expression and less phosphorylated NFκB).


HP diets prevent and reverse steatosis independently of fat and carbohydrate intake more efficiently than a 20% reduction in energy intake. The effect appears to result from fuel-generated, highly distributed small, synergistic increases in lipid and BCAA catabolism, and a decrease in cell stress.

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