In vivo effects of dietary quercetin and quercetin-rich red onion extract on skeletal muscle mitochondria, metabolism, and insulin sensitivity

Genes Nutr. 2015 Jan;10(1):451. doi: 10.1007/s12263-014-0451-1. Epub 2014 Dec 27.


Red onions and low doses of the flavonoid, quercetin, increase insulin sensitivity and improve glucose tolerance. We hypothesized that dietary supplementation with red onion extract (RO) would attenuate high fat diet (HFD)-induced obesity and insulin resistance similar to quercetin supplementation by increasing energy expenditure through a mechanism involving skeletal muscle mitochondrial adaptations. To test this hypothesis, C57BL/6J mice were randomized into four groups and fed either a low fat diet (LF), HFD (HF), HFD + quercetin (HF + Q), or HFD + RO (HF + RO) for 9 weeks. Food consumption and body weight and composition were measured weekly. Insulin sensitivity was assessed by insulin and glucose tolerance tests. Energy expenditure and physical activity were measured by indirect calorimetry. Skeletal muscle incomplete beta oxidation, mitochondrial number, and mtDNA-encoded gene expression were measured. Quercetin and RO supplementation decreased HFD-induced fat mass accumulation and insulin resistance (measured by insulin tolerance test) and increased energy expenditure; however, only HF + Q showed an increase in physical activity levels. Although quercetin and RO similarly increased skeletal muscle mitochondrial number and decreased incomplete beta oxidation, establishing mitochondrial function similar to that seen in LF, only HF + Q exhibited consistently lower mRNA levels of mtDNA-encoded genes necessary for complexes IV and V compared to LF. Quercetin- and RO-induced improvements in adiposity, insulin resistance, and energy expenditure occur through differential mechanisms, with quercetin-but not RO-induced energy expenditure being related to increases in physical activity. While both treatments improved skeletal muscle mitochondrial number and function, mtDNA-encoded transcript levels suggest that the antiobesogenic, insulin-sensitizing effects of purified quercetin aglycone, and RO may occur through differential mechanisms.