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Obesity (Silver Spring). 2007 Sep;15(9):2190-9.

Hepatic steatosis and increased adiposity in mice consuming rapidly vs. slowly absorbed carbohydrate.

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Children's Hospital Boston, Department of Medicine, 333 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, USA.



Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is fast becoming a major public health concern, coincident with the increasing prevalence of obesity. Although lifestyle greatly influences development of NAFLD, the specific dietary causes remain largely unknown. The purpose of this study was to determine whether a diet high in rapidly absorbed carbohydrate (RAC) vs. slowly absorbed carbohydrate (SAC), controlled for confounding dietary factors, causes NAFLD in mice with similar body weight. An animal model was chosen because of logistical and ethical challenges to conducting this study in humans.


Male 129SvPas mice were fed diets high in either RAC (amylopectin; high glycemic index) or SAC (amylose; low glycemic index) for 25 weeks. Diets were controlled for macronutrient and micronutrient content, differing only in starch type. Body weight and composition were measured throughout the study. Hepatic and plasma triacylglycerol concentrations were quantified at the end of the study.


Body weight was not significantly different between the two groups. However, total body adiposity increased twice as much, in absolute terms, in the mice fed RAC vs. SAC (12.2 +/- 2.9% vs. 6.1 +/- 4.2%, p < 0.0001). Hepatic triacylglycerol content was 2-fold greater in the RAC group (20.7 +/- 9.4 vs. 9.6 +/- 4.9 mg/g, p = 0.01). In addition, plasma insulin and triacylglycerol concentrations were higher in the RAC group.


A diet high in RAC causes accumulation of fat in liver, adipose tissue, and plasma in mice. Therefore, a low glycemic index diet may help prevent or treat NAFLD in humans.

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