To assess the effects of betaine on hepatic lipid accumulation and investigate the underlying mechanism, thirty-two male Sprague-Dawley rats weighing 100 (sd 2·50) g were divided into four groups, and started on one of four treatments: basal diet, basal diet with betaine administration, high-fat diet and high-fat diet with betaine administration. The results showed that no significant difference of body weight was found among experimental groups. Compared with high-fat diet-fed rats, a betaine supplementation decreased (P< 0·05) hepatic TAG accumulation induced by high-fat diet, which was also supported by hepatic histology results. Additionally, hepatic betaine-homocysteine methyltransferase concentration [corrected] as well as its mRNA abundance and lecithin level were found increased (P< 0·05) by betaine supplementation in both basal diet-fed rats and high-fat diet-fed rats. Betaine administration in high-fat diet-fed rats exhibited a higher (P< 0·05) concentration [corrected] of hepatic carnitine palmitoyltransferase 1 (CPT1) compared with high-fat diet-fed rats. High-fat diet inhibited (P< 0·05) the gene expression of hepatic PPARα and CPT1. However, betaine administration in high-fat diet-fed rats elevated (P< 0·05) the gene expression of PPARα and CPT1. Moreover, concentration, gene and protein expressions of hepatic fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21) were increased (P< 0·05) in response to betaine administration in high-fat diet group; meanwhile the gene expression of hepatic AMP-activated protein kinase was increased (P< 0·05) as well. The results suggest that betaine administration enhanced hepatic lipid export and fatty acid oxidation in high-fat diet-fed rats, thus effectively alleviating fat accumulation in the liver.
Keywords: Betaine; High-fat diet; Lipid accumulation; Liver; Rats.