Astaxanthin prevents and reverses diet-induced insulin resistance and steatohepatitis in mice: A comparison with vitamin E.
Sci Rep. 2015 ;5:17192. Epub 2015 Nov 25. PMID: 26603489
Hepatic insulin resistance and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) could be caused by excessive hepatic lipid accumulation and peroxidation. Vitamin E has become a standard treatment for NASH. However, astaxanthin, an antioxidant carotenoid, inhibits lipid peroxidation more potently than vitamin E. Here, we compared the effects of astaxanthin and vitamin E in NASH. We first demonstrated that astaxanthin ameliorated hepatic steatosis in both genetically (ob/ob) and high-fat-diet-induced obese mice. In a lipotoxic model of NASH: mice fed a high-cholesterol and high-fat diet, astaxanthin alleviated excessive hepatic lipid accumulation and peroxidation, increased the proportion of M1-type macrophages/Kupffer cells, and activated stellate cells to improve hepatic inflammation and fibrosis. Moreover, astaxanthin caused an M2-dominant shift in macrophages/Kupffer cells and a subsequent reduction in CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cell recruitment in the liver, which contributed to improved insulin resistance and hepatic inflammation. Importantly, astaxanthin reversed insulin resistance, as well as hepatic inflammation and fibrosis, in pre-existing NASH. Overall, astaxanthin was more effective at both preventing and treating NASH compared with vitamin E in mice. Furthermore, astaxanthin improved hepatic steatosis and tended to ameliorate the progression of NASH in biopsy-proven human subjects. These results suggest that astaxanthin might be a novel and promising treatment for NASH.