BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE The lack of safe and effective treatments for obesity has increased interest in natural products that may serve as alternative therapies. From this perspective, we have analysed the effects of daidzein, one of the main soy isoflavones, on diet-induced obesity in rats.
EXPERIMENTAL APPROACH Rats made obese after exposure to a very (60%) high fat-content diet were treated with daidzein (50 mg·kg−1) for 14 days. The dose was selected on the basis of the acute effects of this isoflavone on a feeding test. After 14 days, animals were killed and plasma, white and brown adipose tissue, muscle and liver studied for the levels and expression of metabolites, proteins and genes relevant to lipid metabolism.
KEY RESULTS A single treatment (acute) with daidzein dose-dependently reduced food intake. Chronic treatment (daily for 14 days) reduced weight gain and fat content in liver, accompanied by high leptin and low adiponectin levels in plasma. While skeletal muscle was weakly affected by treatment, both adipose tissue and liver displayed marked changes after treatment with daidzein, affecting transcription factors and lipogenic enzymes, particularly stearoyl coenzyme A desaturase 1, a pivotal enzyme in obesity. Expression of uncoupling protein 1, an important enzyme for thermogenesis, was increased in brown adipose tissue after daidzein treatment.
CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS These results support the use of isoflavones in diet-induced obesity, especially when hepatic steatosis is present and open a new field of use for these natural products.