Background: Understanding of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is hampered by the lack of a suitable model. Our aim was to investigate whether long term high saturated-fat feeding would induce NASH in rats.
Methods: 21 day-old rats fed high fat diets for 14 weeks, with either coconut oil or butter, and were compared with rats feeding a standard diet or a methionine choline-deficient (MCD) diet, a non physiological model of NASH.
Results: MCDD fed rats rapidly lost weight and showed NASH features. Rats fed coconut (86% of saturated fatty acid) or butter (51% of saturated fatty acid) had an increased caloric intake (+143% and +30%). At the end of the study period, total lipid ingestion in term of percentage of energy intake was higher in both coconut (45%) and butter (42%) groups than in the standard (7%) diet group. No change in body mass was observed as compared with standard rats at the end of the experiment. However, high fat fed rats were fattier with enlarged white and brown adipose tissue (BAT) depots, but they showed no liver steatosis and no difference in triglyceride content in hepatocytes, as compared with standard rats. Absence of hepatic lipid accumulation with high fat diets was not related to a higher lipid oxidation by isolated hepatocytes (unchanged ketogenesis and oxygen consumption) or hepatic mitochondrial respiration but was rather associated with a rise in BAT uncoupling protein UCP1 (+25-28% vs standard).
Conclusion: Long term high saturated fat feeding led to increased "peripheral" fat storage and BAT thermogenesis but did not induce hepatic steatosis and NASH.