Kiwi fruit may guard offspring against obesity-related liver damage

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

There is compelling evidence from nonhuman primate and rodent studies linking a maternal obesity-promoting environment and development of NAFLD in offspring.©iStock
There is compelling evidence from nonhuman primate and rodent studies linking a maternal obesity-promoting environment and development of NAFLD in offspring.©iStock
An antioxidant found in foods such as kiwi fruit could provide protection against non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in the offspring of overweight parents, researchers have found.

The study was able to demonstrate that Pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ) can protect offspring of obese mothers in the onset of obesity-induced NAFLD.

The disease is the most common chronic liver disease in Europe and case numbers are rising.

Data​ suggests the prevalence rate of NAFLD is 2–44% in the general European population (including obese children) and 42.6–69.5% in people with type 2 diabetes.

Evidence from animal studies suggests exposure to a high-fat Western-style diet in the womb increases the chances of liver scarring in the offspring.

Researchers think dietary supplementation with PQQ could prove effective in reducing the risks of NAFLD in infants exposed to maternal overnutrition.

As well as kiwi fruit, PQQ is also found in human breast milk, soy, parsley, celery and papaya.  

PQQ long-term effects

obese weight loss fat childhood infants children obesity
'One-third of obese children under 18 may have undiagnosed fatty liver disease that, when discovered, is more likely to be advanced at the time of diagnosis.' ©iStock

Dr Karen Jonscher, associate professor of anesthesiology and a physicist at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus led a research team in trials that involved placing a group of female adult mice on a healthy low-fat diet (3.85 kilocalories per gram (kcal/g), 10% kcal from fat).

Another group was given a diet heavy on fat, sugar and cholesterol (4.73 kcal/g, 45% kcal from fat). Both groups were given drinking water containing PQQ.

In the second part of the study, the offspring were kept on the diets for 20 weeks. As expected, those fed a Western diet gained more weight than those on a healthy diet.

PQQ supplementation had no effect on weight gain but it did reduce fat content that accumulated in the liver. This was observed even before the mice were born.

The antioxidant also lessened liver inflammation of mice following the Western diet.

The team also discovered that the antioxidant protected adult mice from fatty liver, even when supplementation stopped after three weeks when the mice stopped breastfeeding.

“One-third of obese children under 18 may have undiagnosed fatty liver disease that, when discovered, is more likely to be advanced at the time of diagnosis,”​ said Dr Jonscher.

“Perhaps supplementing the diet of obese pregnant mothers with PQQ, which has proven safe in several human studies, will be a therapeutic target worthy of more study in the battle to reduce the risk of NAFLD in babies,”​ she added.

Mechanism of action

Maternal nutrition during gestation and lactation has been identified as critical periods in development in preventing metabolic complications in later life.

High doses of vitamins A, E, C, and selenium provided during pregnancy and lactation to rats fed a Western-style diet decreased body fat and improved glucose tolerance in offspring moved to a lower fat control diet after birth.

Likewise, supplementing the diet of obese nonhuman primates fed a high-fat diet with resveratrol​ prevented development of fatty liver in the foetus.

“PQQ acts as an antioxidant by scavenging oxygen ions and protects mitochondria from oxidative stress-induced damage,”​ the researchers discussed making reference to a review​that outlined recent progress on the health benefits of PQQ.

“PQQ supplementation during this early-life period conferred persistent effects into adulthood, reducing the accumulation of triglycerides, suppressing induction of proinflammatory pathways, and increasing fatty acid oxidation.”

Source: Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology

Published online ahead of print: doi: 10.1096/fj.201600906R

“Early PQQ supplementation has persistent long-term protective effects on developmental programming of hepatic lipotoxicity and inflammation in obese mice.”

Authors: Karen Jonscher et al.

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