Background/objectives: The association between gluten and body weight is inconsistent. Previously, we showed that a gluten-free diet reduces weight gain without changing food intake in mice fed high-fat diets. In the present study, we investigated the effects of gluten intake on fat metabolism, thermogenesis and energy expenditure in mice fed a standard or high-fat diet.
Methods: Mice were fed four different experimental diets during 8 weeks: a control-standard diet (CD), a CD added with 4.5% of wheat gluten (CD-G), a high-fat diet (HFD) and a HFD added with 4.5% of wheat gluten (HFD-G). After 8 weeks, the mice received (99m)Tc-radiolabeled gluten orally to study gluten absorption and biodistribution or they underwent indirect calorimetry. After killing, subcutaneous and brown adipose tissues (SAT and BAT) were collected to assess thermogenesis-related protein expression. Lipid metabolism was studied in adipocyte cultures from the four groups.
Results: Despite having had the same energy intake, CD-G and HFD-G mice exhibited increased body weight and fat deposits compared with their respective controls. (99m)Tc-GLU or its peptides were detected in the blood, liver and visceral adipose tissue, suggesting that gluten can even reach extraintestinal organs. Uncoupling protein-1 expression was reduced in the BAT of HFD-G and in the SAT of CD-G and HFD-G mice. Indirect calorimetry showed lower oxygen volume consumption in CD-G and HFD-G groups compared with their controls. In HFD mice, daily energy expenditure was reduced with gluten intake. Gluten also reduced adiponectin, peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR)-α and PPARγ and hormone-sensitive lipase in cultures of isolated adipocytes from HFD mice, whereas in the CD-G group, gluten intake increased interleukin-6 expression and tended to increase that of tumor necrosis factor.
Conclusions: Wheat gluten promotes weight gain in animals on both HFD and CD, partly by reducing the thermogenic capacity of adipose tissues.