Atherosclerosis, a major form of cardiovascular disease, has now been recognized as a chronic inflammatory disease. Nonpharmacological means of treating chronic diseases have gained attention recently. We previously reported that sesame oil has anti-atherosclerotic properties. In this study, we have determined the mechanisms by which sesame oil might modulate atherosclerosis by identifying genes and inflammatory markers. Low-density lipoprotein receptor knockout (LDLR(-/-)) female mice were fed with either an atherogenic diet or an atherogenic diet reformulated with sesame oil (sesame oil diet). Plasma lipids and atherosclerotic lesions were quantified after 3 months of feeding. Plasma samples were used for cytokine analysis. RNA was extracted from the liver tissue and used for global gene arrays. The sesame oil diet significantly reduced atherosclerotic lesions, plasma cholesterol, triglyceride, and LDL cholesterol levels in LDLR(-/-) mice. Plasma inflammatory cytokines, such as MCP-1, RANTES, IL-1α, IL-6, and CXCL-16, were significantly reduced, demonstrating an anti-inflammatory property of sesame oil. Gene array analysis showed that sesame oil induced many genes, including ABCA1, ABCA2, APOE, LCAT, and CYP7A1, which are involved in cholesterol metabolism and reverse cholesterol transport. In conclusion, our studies suggest that a sesame oil-enriched diet could be an effective nonpharmacological treatment for atherosclerosis by controlling inflammation and regulating lipid metabolism.
Keywords: cholesterol transport; inflammation; lipid metabolism; sesamin; sesamol.