High-fat and/or high-carbohydrate diets may predispose to several metabolic disturbances including liver fatty infiltration (hepatosteatosis) or be associated with necro-inflammation and fibrosis (steatohepatitis). Several studies have emphasized the hepatoprotective effect of some natural agents. In this study, we investigated the potential therapeutic effects of the treatment with emodin, an anthraquinone derivative with anti-oxidant and anti-cancer abilities, in rats developing diet-induced hepatosteatosis and steatohepatitis. Sprague-Dawley rats were fed a standard diet (SD) for 15 weeks, or a high-fat/high-fructose diet (HFD/HF). After 5 weeks, emodin was added to the drinking water of some of the SD and HFD/HF rats. The experiment ended after an additional 10 weeks. Emodin-treated HFD/HF rats were protected from hepatosteatosis and metabolic derangements usually observed in HFD/HF animals. Furthermore, emodin exerted anti-inflammatory activity by inhibiting the HFD/HF-induced increase of tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α. Emodin also affected the hepatocytes glutathione homeostasis and levels of the HFD/HF-induced increase of glutathionylated/phosphorylated phosphatase and tensin homolog (PTEN). In conclusion, we demonstrated that a natural agent such as emodin can prevent hepatosteatosis, preserving liver from pro-inflammatory and pro-oxidant damage caused by HFD/HF diet. These findings are promising, proposing emodin as a possible hindrance to progression of hepatosteatosis into steatohepatitis
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