Males who regularly consume a western diet -- high in fat and sugar -- may be at risk of developing chronic inflammation of the liver, a study cautioned.
The study, conducted on mice, revealed that liver inflammation was most pronounced in Western diet-fed male mice that also lacked farnesoid x receptor (FXR), a bile acid receptor. "Gut and liver health are linked. It is clear that microbial imbalance and dysregulated bile acid synthesis are inseparable, and they jointly contribute to hepatic inflammation via the gut-liver axis," said lead investigator Yu-Jui Yvonne Wan, Professor at the University of California, Davis.
Further, these FXR deficient mice also developed steatosis or fatty liver, which was more severe in males than females. In addition, gut microbiota and bile acid profiles may explain gender difference in liver disease as liver cancer incidence is much higher in men than women.
"Our data shows that diet, gender, and different antibiotic treatments alter the gut microbiota as well as bile acid profile and have different effects on liver inflammation," Wan added. Introducing antibiotics to reduce inflammation also had different effects based on the diets the mice received, the researchers said.
For the study, reported in The American Journal of Pathology, the team used an FXR-deficient mouse model, because patients with cirrhosis or liver cancer also have low FXR levels. They found similarities between Western diet intake and FXR deficiency. The adverse effects of Western diet on the liver may be explained in part by the persistence of a pro-inflammatory bacteria as well as the reduction of an anti-inflammatory bacteria in the gut. The liver receives 70 per cent of its blood supply from the intestine, thus understanding how the gut contributes to liver disease development may help develop treatments, the researchers said.