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Nutr Rev. 2017 Apr 5. doi: 10.1093/nutrit/nux004. [Epub ahead of print]

Dietary sphingolipids: potential for management of dyslipidemia and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

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G.H. Norris and C.N. Blesso are with the Department of Nutritional Sciences, University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut, USA.


The development of therapeutic approaches aimed at reducing inflammation, improving lipid metabolism, and preventing nonalcoholic fatty liver disease holds significant potential in the management of obesity-associated disease. In this review, the recent basic science and clinical research examining dietary sphingolipid intake and the prevention of dyslipidemia and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is summarized. Dietary sphingolipids have been shown to dose-dependently reduce the acute intestinal absorption of cholesterol, triglycerides, and fatty acids in rodents. Overall, studies feeding dietary sphingolipids to rodents typically show reductions in serum lipids. Furthermore, these hypolipidemic effects are also observed in most human studies, although the magnitude of such effects is typically smaller. Dietary sphingolipids also appear useful in preventing hepatic lipid uptake and accumulation and have shown benefits in preventing hepatic steatosis in rodent models. Dietary sphingolipids may affect the gut-liver axis by preventing the translocation of gut bacteria-derived lipopolysaccharide and/or inhibiting its proinflammatory effects. Current evidence from preclinical studies indicates that dietary sphingolipids have lipid-lowering and anti-inflammatory properties, although their potential to prevent human chronic disease has not been fully explored. It will be important to determine if such effects seen in cell and animal models translate to humans. More research is warranted to define how dietary sphingolipids influence lipid metabolism and inflammation.


NAFLD; ceramide; cholesterol; dyslipidemia; hepatic steatosis; liver disease; sphingolipids; sphingomyelin.

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