The objective of this study was to investigate the hepatoprotective efficacy and mechanism of action of ginger essential oil (GEO) against the development of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Mice were maintained on either a control diet or high-fat diet (HFD) supplemented with GEO (12.5, 62.5, and 125 mg/kg) or citral (2.5 and 25 mg/kg) for 12 weeks. We demonstrated that GEO and its major component (citral) lowered HFD-induced obesity in a dose-dependent manner, accompanied by anti-hyperlipidemic effects by reducing serum free fatty acid, triglyceride, and total cholesterol levels. Moreover, liver histological results showed that administration of 62.5 and 125 mg/kg GEO and 25 mg/kg citral significantly reduced hepatic lipid accumulation. Further assessment by Western blotting and investigation of the lipid metabolism revealed that hepatic protein expression of sterol regulatory element-binding protein-1c (SREBP-1c), acetyl-CoA carboxylase (ACC), fatty acid synthase (FAS), 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A reductase (HMGCR), and cytochrome P450 2E1 (CYP2E1) were down-regulated by GEO and citral, indicating that GEO and citral suppressed HFD-stimulated lipid biosynthesis and oxidative stress. Furthermore, GEO and citral effectively enhanced the antioxidant capacities and reduced inflammatory response in mouse liver, which exerted protective effects against steatohepatitis. Collectively, GEO and citral exhibited potent hepatoprotective effects against NAFLD induced by HFD in obese mice. Thus, GEO might be an effective dietary supplement to ameliorate NAFLD-related metabolic diseases, and citral could play a vital role in its management.
Keywords: citral; ginger essential oil; lipogenesis; nonalcoholic fatty liver disease; obesity.