Food composition and metabolic health

Contact: PD Dr. Olga Ramich

Funding: German Center for Diabetes Research e. V. (DZD)

In a range of nutritional intervention studies, we showed the effects of food composition on body weight, glucose and lipid metabolism, liver fat, hormone profiles and inflammatory status in metabolic healthy individuals and subjects with obesity, type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease and metabolic syndrome.

Fig. 1: Effect of diets rich in animal or plant protein on the liver fat content in subjects with type 2 diabetes. *** p<0.001 (Markova, Pivovarova et al. Gastroenterology 2017)

In particular, we demonstrated that food which is rich in saturated fatty acids, leads within one week to the rapid worsening of the metabolic and inflammatory parameters, whereas the increased intake of the plant oils, rich in unsaturated fatty acids, has beneficial metabolic effects. In human studies and cell culture experiments with glucosinolates we elucidated their impact on hormone secretion and intracellular signaling. Interestingly, in a range of studies, we observed the essential role of genetic factors (e.g. polymorphisms) in the metabolic response to nutrition which confirms the importance of personalized nutritional strategies for optimal health.

Fig 2: Effects of the high-protein diet on the genetic network in human subcutaneous adipose tissue. The color of the edges represents the quantity of the correlation coefficients (blue: 0.75>τ≥0.5; black: 0.5>τ≥0.3). (Markova, Pivovarova et al. Gastroenterology 2017)

Further, we extensively investigated the impact of dietary proteins on the liver and lipid metabolism. We showed in human studies that the high-protein diet in subjects with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes dramatically reduces the liver fat content (Fig. 1), improves the insulin sensitivity and shows beneficial effects on body weight, muscle mass maintenance, blood lipids, markers of inflammation, oxidative stress and HbA1c. Additionally the lipogenesis and the lipolysis in adipose tissue have been affected (Fig. 2). These effects were similar for plant and animal protein.

Taken together, obtained results demonstrate that balanced nutrition and the conscious choice of food, rich in health-promoting nutrients, represents an effective nutritional strategy for the prevention and therapy of metabolic diseases and requires further investigation.