Obesity and dyslipidemia are major risk factors for the development of cardiovascular diseases (CVD). Quercetin, a natural flavonoid, lowers plasma triglycerides (TG) in human intervention studies, and its intake is associated with lower CVD risk. The aim of this study was to elucidate the mechanism by which quercetin lowers plasma TG levels in diet-induced obesity. C57Bl/6J mice received a high-fat diet (45% of calories derived from fat) with or without quercetin (0.1% w/w) for 12 weeks. Quercetin decreased plasma TG levels from nine weeks onwards (−19%, p < 0.05), without affecting food intake, body composition, or energy expenditure. Mechanistically, quercetin did not reduce intestinal fatty acid (FA) absorption. Rather, quercetin induced a slight reduction in liver Apob expression (−13%, p < 0.05), which suggests decreased very-low density lipoprotein-TG production. Interestingly, quercetin also markedly increased the uptake of [³H]oleate, which was derived from glycerol tri[³H]oleate-labeled lipoprotein-like particles by subcutaneous white adipose tissue (sWAT, +60%, p < 0.05). Furthermore, quercetin also markedly increased mRNA expression of Ucp1 (+229%, p < 0.05) and Elovl3 (+138%, p < 0.05), specifically in sWAT. Accordingly, only quercetin-treated animals showed uncoupling protein-1 protein-positive cells in sWAT, which is fully compatible with increased browning. Taken together, the TG-lowering effect of quercetin may, at least in part, be due to increased TG-derived FA uptake by sWAT as a consequence of browning.
Keywords: brown adipose tissue; browning; obesity; quercetin; triglycerides; white adipose tissue.