Aims: This study investigated the hepatoprotective effects of low doses of curcumin against liver damage induced by chronic alcohol intake and a high-fat diet. We also examined several potential underlying mechanisms including action on alcohol metabolism, antioxidant activity, AMPK level and lipid metabolism.
Main method: Alcohol (25% v/v, 5 g/kg body weight) was orally administered once a day for 6 weeks to mice fed a high-fat diet with or without two different doses of curcumin (0.02% and 0.05%, wt/wt).
Key findings: Curcumin significantly decreased the plasma aspartate aminotransferase, alanine aminotransferase, lactate dehydrogenase and alkaline phosphatase activities (p<0.05) and prevented hepatic steatosis compared with the alcohol control group. Curcumin significantly reversed the alcohol-induced inhibition of the alcohol dehydrogenase, aldehyde dehydrogenase 2 and antioxidant enzyme activities as well as the activation of cytochrome P4502E1 and promotion of lipid peroxidation (p<0.05). Curcumin significantly increased the hepatic total AMPK protein level and concomitantly suppressed the fatty acid synthase and phosphatidate phosphohydrolase activities compared with the alcohol control group (p<0.05). Furthermore, curcumin significantly lowered the plasma leptin, free fatty acids and triglycerides levels and hepatic lipid levels (p<0.05).
Significance: These findings indicate that low doses of curcumin may protect against liver damage caused by chronic alcohol intake and a high-fat diet partly by modulating the alcohol metabolic enzyme activity, the antioxidant activity and the lipid metabolism. Therefore, curcumin may provide a promising natural therapeutic strategy against liver disease.
Keywords: Alcohol; Curcumin; Hepatoprotective activity; High-fat diet.