A casein hydrolysate based formulation attenuates obesity and associated non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and atherosclerosis in LDLr-/-.Leiden mice

PLoS One. 2017 Jul 5;12(7):e0180648. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0180648. eCollection 2017.


Background: Obesity frequently associates with the development of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and atherosclerosis. Chronic inflammation in white adipose tissue (WAT) seems to be an important driver of these manifestations.

Objective: This study investigated a combination of an extensively hydrolyzed casein (eHC), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), arachidonic acid (ARA), and Lactobacillus Rhamnosus GG (LGG) (together referred to as nutritional ingredients, NI) on the development of obesity, metabolic risk factors, WAT inflammation, NAFLD and atherosclerosis in high-fat diet-fed LDLr-/-.Leiden mice, a model that mimics disease development in humans.

Methods: LDLr-/-.Leiden male mice (n = 15/group) received a high-fat diet (HFD, 45 Kcal%) for 21 weeks with or without the NI (23.7% eHC, 0.083% DHA, 0.166% ARA; all w/w and 1x109 CFU LGG gavage 3 times/week). HFD and HFD+NI diets were isocaloric. A low fat diet (LFD, 10 Kcal%) was used for reference. Body weight, food intake and metabolic risk factors were assessed over time. At week 21, tissues were analyzed for WAT inflammation (crown-like structures), NAFLD and atherosclerosis. Effects of the individual NI components were explored in a follow-up experiment (n = 7/group).

Results: When compared to HFD control, treatment with the NI strongly reduced body weight to levels of the LFD group, and significantly lowered (P<0.01) plasma insulin, cholesterol, triglycerides, leptin and serum amyloid A (P<0.01). NI also reduced WAT mass and inflammation. Strikingly, NI treatment significantly reduced macrovesicular steatosis, lobular inflammation and liver collagen (P<0.05), and attenuated atherosclerosis development (P<0.01). Of the individual components, the effects of eHC were most pronounced but could not explain the entire effects of the NI formulation.

Conclusions: A combination of eHC, ARA, DHA and LGG attenuates obesity and associated cardiometabolic diseases (NAFLD, atherosclerosis) in LDLr-/-.Leiden mice. The observed reduction of inflammation in adipose tissue and in the liver provides a rationale for these comprehensive health effects.

MeSH terms

  • Adiposity / drug effects
  • Animals
  • Atherosclerosis / prevention & control*
  • Caseins / administration & dosage*
  • Caseins / pharmacology
  • Diet, High-Fat
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / prevention & control*
  • Obesity / prevention & control*
  • Receptors, LDL / genetics
  • Receptors, LDL / physiology*
  • Weight Gain


  • Caseins
  • Receptors, LDL
  • casein hydrolysate

Grants and funding

This study received unconditional funding support from Mead Johnson Nutrition. MH Schoemaker and EAF van Tol are employees of Mead Johnson Nutrition and contributed to the design of the study and manuscript preparation. Mead Johnson Nutrition employees were not involved in the execution of the study, the consequent data collection and analysis. No other authors declare a conflict of interest. The specific roles of these authors are articulated in the ‘author contributions’ section.