Accelerated Aging Induced by an Unhealthy High-Fat Diet: Initial Evidence for the Role of Nrf2 Deficiency and Impaired Stress Resilience in Cellular Senescence

Nutrients. 2024 Mar 26;16(7):952. doi: 10.3390/nu16070952.


High-fat diets (HFDs) have pervaded modern dietary habits, characterized by their excessive saturated fat content and low nutritional value. Epidemiological studies have compellingly linked HFD consumption to obesity and the development of type 2 diabetes mellitus. Moreover, the synergistic interplay of HFD, obesity, and diabetes expedites the aging process and prematurely fosters age-related diseases. However, the underlying mechanisms driving these associations remain enigmatic. One of the most conspicuous hallmarks of aging is the accumulation of highly inflammatory senescent cells, with mounting evidence implicating increased cellular senescence in the pathogenesis of age-related diseases. Our hypothesis posits that HFD consumption amplifies senescence burden across multiple organs. To scrutinize this hypothesis, we subjected mice to a 6-month HFD regimen, assessing senescence biomarker expression in the liver, white adipose tissue, and the brain. Aging is intrinsically linked to impaired cellular stress resilience, driven by dysfunction in Nrf2-mediated cytoprotective pathways that safeguard cells against oxidative stress-induced senescence. To ascertain whether Nrf2-mediated pathways shield against senescence induction in response to HFD consumption, we explored senescence burden in a novel model of aging: Nrf2-deficient (Nrf2+/-) mice, emulating the aging phenotype. Our initial findings unveiled significant Nrf2 dysfunction in Nrf2+/- mice, mirroring aging-related alterations. HFD led to substantial obesity, hyperglycemia, and impaired insulin sensitivity in both Nrf2+/- and Nrf2+/+ mice. In control mice, HFD primarily heightened senescence burden in white adipose tissue, evidenced by increased Cdkn2a senescence biomarker expression. In Nrf2+/- mice, HFD elicited a significant surge in senescence burden across the liver, white adipose tissue, and the brain. We postulate that HFD-induced augmentation of senescence burden may be a pivotal contributor to accelerated organismal aging and the premature onset of age-related diseases.

Keywords: ageing; endothelial cells; high-fat diet; obesity; prediabetes; senescence; stress resistance; unhealthy diet.

MeSH terms

  • Aging
  • Animals
  • Biomarkers
  • Cellular Senescence
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2* / etiology
  • Diet, High-Fat / adverse effects
  • Mice
  • NF-E2-Related Factor 2 / genetics
  • Obesity / etiology
  • Resilience, Psychological*


  • NF-E2-Related Factor 2
  • Biomarkers