Healthy fats in obese mice

Neuropathy is the most common complication of prediabetes and diabetes and presents as distal-to-proximal loss of peripheral nerve function in the lower extremities. So, neuropathy progression and disease severity in prediabetes and diabetes correlates with dyslipidemia in man and murine models of disease. Moreover, Dyslipidemia is characterized by elevated levels of circulating saturated fatty acids (SFAs) that associate with the progression of neuropathy. Increased intake of monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFA)-rich diets confers metabolic health benefits; however, the impact of fatty acid saturation in neuropathy is unknown.

Mus musculus fed a high fat diet

However, this study examines the differential effect of SFAs and MUFAs on the development of neuropathy and the molecular mechanisms underlying the progression of the complication. Male mice Mus musculus fed a high fat diet rich in SFAs developed robust peripheral neuropathy. Above all, this neuropathy was completely reversed by switching the mice from the SFA-rich high fat diet to a MUFA-rich high fat diet; nerve conduction velocities and intraepidermal nerve fiber density were restored.

A MUFA oleate also prevented the impairment of mitochondrial transport; and protected mitochondrial membrane potential in cultured sensory neurons; treated with mixtures of oleate and the SFA palmitate. Moreover, oleate also preserved intracellular ATP levels, prevented apoptosis induced by palmitate treatment; and promoted lipid droplet formation in sensory neurons; suggesting that lipid droplets protect sensory neurons from lipotoxicity. Together, these results suggest that MUFAs reverse the progression of neuropathy; by protecting mitochondrial function; and transport through the formation of intracellular lipid droplets in sensory neurons.

A potential treatment for the nerve damage

However, swapping dietary saturated fats for monounsaturated fats; reverses nerve damage and restores nerve function; in male mice, finds new preclinical research; published in JNeurosci. So, these data support further investigation of diets rich in healthy fats; as a potential treatment for the nerve damage; that occurs with diabetes, known as diabetic neuropathy. Above all, type 2 diabetes has association with high-fat diets; characterized by large amounts of saturated fats. In contrast, monounsaturated fatty acid-rich diets have been shown; to have health benefits.

So, professor Eva Feldman and colleagues at the University of Michigan investigated; how these two types of fats affect the progression of diabetic neuropathy; the most common complication of diabetes. The researchers found switching mice; from a saturated fat-based diet; to a diet rich in monounsaturated fats derived from sunflower oil restored; and protected nerve function in obese mice. Studying the beneficial effects of monounsaturated fats in sensory dorsal root ganglion neurons showed the intervention helped the cells maintain normal energy production. These results suggest that interventions targeting dietary fats may provide a new therapeutic avenue for the treatment of diabetic neuropathy.