Dietary Broccoli Lessens Development of Fatty Liver and Liver Cancer in Mice Given Diethylnitrosamine and Fed a Western or Control Diet

J Nutr. 2016 Mar;146(3):542-50. doi: 10.3945/jn.115.228148. Epub 2016 Feb 10.


Background: The high-fat and high-sugar Westernized diet that is popular worldwide is associated with increased body fat accumulation, which has been related to the development of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Without treatment, NAFLD may progress to hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), a cancer with a high mortality rate. The consumption of broccoli in the United States has greatly increased in the last 2 decades. Epidemiologic studies show that incorporating brassica vegetables into the daily diet lowers the risk of several cancers, although, to our knowledge, this is the first study to evaluate HCC prevention through dietary broccoli.

Objective: We aimed to determine the impact of dietary broccoli on hepatic lipid metabolism and the progression of NAFLD to HCC. Our hypothesis was that broccoli decreases both hepatic lipidosis and the development of HCC in a mouse model of Western diet-enhanced liver cancer.

Methods: Adult 5-wk-old male B6C3F1 mice received a control diet (AIN-93M) or a Western diet (high in lard and sucrose, 19% and 31%, wt:wt, respectively), with or without freeze-dried broccoli (10%, wt:wt). Starting the following week, mice were treated once per week with diethylnitrosamine (DEN; 45 mg/kg body weight intraperitoneally at ages 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, and 12 wk). Hepatic gene expression, lipidosis, and tumor outcomes were analyzed 6 mo later, when mice were 9 mo old.

Results: Mice receiving broccoli exhibited lower hepatic triglycerides (P < 0.001) and NAFLD scores (P < 0.0001), decreased plasma alanine aminotransferase (P < 0.0001), suppressed activation of hepatic CD68(+) macrophages (P < 0.0001), and slowed initiation and progression of hepatic neoplasm. Hepatic Cd36 was downregulated by broccoli feeding (P = 0.006), whereas microsomal triglyceride transfer protein was upregulated (P = 0.045), supporting the finding that dietary broccoli decreased hepatic triglycerides.

Conclusion: Long-term consumption of whole broccoli countered both NAFLD development enhanced by a Western diet and hepatic tumorigenesis induced by DEN in male B6C3F1 mice.

Keywords: NAFLD; Western diet; broccoli; diethylnitrosamine; liver cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Alanine Transaminase / blood
  • Animals
  • Brassica*
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / chemically induced
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / diet therapy
  • Diet, Western / adverse effects*
  • Diethylnitrosamine / adverse effects*
  • Lipid Metabolism
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Liver Neoplasms / chemically induced
  • Liver Neoplasms / diet therapy*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / chemically induced
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / diet therapy
  • Triglycerides / metabolism


  • Triglycerides
  • Diethylnitrosamine
  • Alanine Transaminase