Curcumin attenuates Nrf2 signaling defect, oxidative stress in muscle and glucose intolerance in high fat diet-fed mice

World J Diabetes. 2012 May 15;3(5):94-104. doi: 10.4239/wjd.v3.i5.94.


Aim: To investigate the signaling mechanism of anti-oxidative action by curcumin and its impact on glucose disposal.

Methods: Male C57BL/6J mice were fed with either a normal diet (n = 10) or a high fat diet (HFD) (n = 20) to induce obesity and insulin resistance. After 16 wk, 10 HFD-fed mice were further treated with daily curcumin oral gavage at the dose of 50 mg/kg body weight (BW) (HFD + curcumin group). After 15 d of the curcumin supplementation, an intraperitoneal glucose tolerance test was performed. Fasting blood samples were also collected for insulin and glucose measurements. Insulin-sensitive tissues, including muscle, adipose tissue and the liver, were isolated for the assessments of malondialdehyde (MDA), reactive oxygen species (ROS) and nuclear factor erythroid-2-related factor-2 (Nrf2) signaling.

Results: We show here that in a HFD mouse model, short-term curcumin gavage attenuated glucose intolerance without affecting HFD-induced BW gain. Curcumin also attenuated HFD-induced elevations of MDA and ROS in the skeletal muscle, particularly in its mitochondrial fraction, but it had no such an effect in either adipose tissue or the liver of HFD-fed mice. Correspondingly, in skeletal muscle, the levels of total or nuclear content of Nrf2, as well as its downstream target, heme oxygenase-1, were reduced by HFD-feeding. Curcumin intervention dramatically reversed these defects in Nrf2 signaling. Further analysis of the relationship of oxidative stress with glucose level by a regression analysis showed a positive and significant correlation between the area under the curve of a glucose tolerance test with MDA levels either in muscle or muscular mitochondria.

Conclusion: These findings suggest that the short-term treatment of curcumin in HFD-fed mice effectively ameliorates muscular oxidative stress by activating Nrf2 function that is a novel mechanism for its effect in improving glucose intolerance.

Keywords: Curcumin; Glucose tolerance; Insulin resistance; Mitochondria; Nuclear factor erythroid-2-related factor-2; Oxidative stress.