Purple sweet potato is a functional food rich in anthocyanins that possess disease-preventive properties. Anthocyanins are known to possess potent antidiabetic properties. However, the effect of the anthocyanin fraction (AF) from purple sweet potato on hepatic lipid metabolism remains unclear. Our hypothesis is that AF inhibits hepatic lipid accumulation through the activation of adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK) signaling pathways in vitro and in vivo. In this study, we evaluated body weight, liver histology, and hepatic lipid content in high-fat diet (HFD)-fed ICR mice treated with AF. In addition, we characterized the underlying mechanism of AF's effects in HepG2 hepatocytes through Western blot analysis. Anthocyanin fraction (200 mg/kg per day) reduced weight gain and hepatic triglyceride accumulation and improved serum lipid parameters in mice fed an HFD for 4 weeks. Anthocyanin fraction significantly increased the phosphorylation of AMPK and acetyl-coenzyme A carboxylase (ACC) in the liver and HepG2 hepatocytes. In addition, AF down-regulated the levels of sterol regulatory element-binding protein 1 and its target genes including ACC and fatty acid synthase (FAS). The specific AMPK inhibitor compound C attenuated the effects of AF on the expression of lipid metabolism-related proteins such as SREBP-1 and FAS in HepG2 hepatocytes. The beneficial effects of AF on HFD-induced hepatic lipid accumulation are thus mediated through AMPK signaling pathways, suggesting a potential target for the prevention of obesity.
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