Background and aims: Most gene expression studies examining the effect of obesity and weight loss have been performed using adipose tissue. However, the liver also plays a central role in maintaining energy balance. We wanted to study the effects of a hypocaloric diet on overall hepatic gene expression and metabolic risk factors.
Methods and results: The study subjects were middle-aged, obese women. The diet intervention subjects (n=12) were on a hypocaloric, low-fat diet for 8 weeks with a daily energy intake of 5.0 MJ (1200 kcal), while the control subjects (n=19) maintained their weight. Liver biopsies were taken at the end of the diet period during a gallbladder operation. Hepatic gene expression was analyzed using microarrays by comparing the gene expression profiles from four subjects per group. A global decrease in gene expression was observed with 142 down-regulated genes and only one up-regulated gene in the diet intervention group. The diet resulted in a mean weight loss of 5% of body weight. Triglyceride and fasting insulin concentrations decreased significantly after the diet.
Conclusions: The global decrease in hepatic gene expression was unexpected but the results are interesting, since they included several genes not previously linked to weight reduction. However, since the comparison was made only after the weight reduction, other factors in addition to weight loss may also have been involved in the differences in gene expression between the groups. The decrease in triglyceride and fasting plasma insulin concentrations is in accordance with results from previous weight-loss studies.