Animal Models

Wheat gluten intake increases weight gain and adiposity associated with reduced thermogenesis and energy expenditure in an animal model of obesity

Abstract

Background/Objectives:

The association between gluten and body weight is inconsistent. Previously, we showed that a gluten-free diet reduces weight gain without changing food intake in mice fed high-fat diets. In the present study, we investigated the effects of gluten intake on fat metabolism, thermogenesis and energy expenditure in mice fed a standard or high-fat diet.

Methods:

Mice were fed four different experimental diets during 8 weeks: a control-standard diet (CD), a CD added with 4.5% of wheat gluten (CD-G), a high-fat diet (HFD) and a HFD added with 4.5% of wheat gluten (HFD-G). After 8 weeks, the mice received 99mTc-radiolabeled gluten orally to study gluten absorption and biodistribution or they underwent indirect calorimetry. After killing, subcutaneous and brown adipose tissues (SAT and BAT) were collected to assess thermogenesis-related protein expression. Lipid metabolism was studied in adipocyte cultures from the four groups.

Results:

Despite having had the same energy intake, CD-G and HFD-G mice exhibited increased body weight and fat deposits compared with their respective controls. 99mTc-GLU or its peptides were detected in the blood, liver and visceral adipose tissue, suggesting that gluten can even reach extraintestinal organs. Uncoupling protein-1 expression was reduced in the BAT of HFD-G and in the SAT of CD-G and HFD-G mice. Indirect calorimetry showed lower oxygen volume consumption in CD-G and HFD-G groups compared with their controls. In HFD mice, daily energy expenditure was reduced with gluten intake. Gluten also reduced adiponectin, peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR)-α and PPARγ and hormone-sensitive lipase in cultures of isolated adipocytes from HFD mice, whereas in the CD-G group, gluten intake increased interleukin-6 expression and tended to increase that of tumor necrosis factor.

Conclusions:

Wheat gluten promotes weight gain in animals on both HFD and CD, partly by reducing the thermogenic capacity of adipose tissues.

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Acknowledgements

This study was supported by CNPq (Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico), PRPq (Pro-reitoria de Pesquisa of UFMG), FAPEMIG (Fundação de Amparo a Pesquisa de Minas Gerais) and CAPES (Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior). We thank Maria Helena Alves for animal care and all LABiN (Laboratório de Aterosclerose e Bioquímica Nutricional) members for their contributions and assistance.

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Correspondence to J I Alvarez-Leite.

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Freire, R., Fernandes, L., Silva, R. et al. Wheat gluten intake increases weight gain and adiposity associated with reduced thermogenesis and energy expenditure in an animal model of obesity. Int J Obes 40, 479–486 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1038/ijo.2015.204

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