Food components for prevention and treatment of obesity and type 2 diabetes - Physiological effects and molecular mechanisms

Project: Research

Research areas and keywords

UKÄ subject classification

  • Cell and Molecular Biology
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Endocrinology and Diabetes


  • Nutrition, Diabetes, Obesity, Polyphenols, Gut microbiota


In Western countries we face the nutritional imbalance associated with high-energy intake in parallel with inadequate micronutrient and phytochemical intake. One challenge is to address the causal relationships between diet and health by examine the specific roles of bioactive components in the protective effect of complex foods. According to WHO, improving nutrition is the single most important contributor to reduce the burden of type 2 diabetes in Europe. Yet, we spend less than 1% of the total health care costs to prevent disease. Even if there is much evidence to support the benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, evidence that these effects are due to specific nutrients is limited. The objective of our research is to identify and define the role of dietary components (especially polyphenols) for prevention of metabolic diseases and maintenance of health. Specific aims are to evaluate the physiological effects, metabolism and bioavailability in the body and to identify their cellular and molecular targets.
Polyphenols are natural compounds providing taste and color in plant-based food such as berries, tea, chocolate and wine. The aim of our main project is to identify and define the effects and mechanisms of dietary polyphenol-rich berries in prevention and treatment of metabolic diseases like obesity and type 2 diabetes.
We have recently published several papers in which we report effects and mechanisms of polyphenol-rich berries in high-fat fed mice. The first paper revealed that lingonberries, but also blackcurrant and bilberries, efficiently prevent the development of obesity and associated metabolic disturbances while the Brazilian açai berry had the opposite effects (Heyman 2014). Genome-wide hepatic gene expression profiling indicated that the protective effects of lingonberries and bilberries are accounted for by several-fold downregulation of genes involved in acute-phase and inflammatory pathways (e.g. Saa1, Cxcl1, Lcn2). In contrast, açai-fed mice exhibited marked upregulation of genes associated with steatosis (e.g. Cfd, Cidea, Crat) and lipid and cholesterol biosynthesis, which is in line with the exacerbation of HF-induced hepatic steatosis in these mice. In silico transcription factor analysis together with immunoblot analysis identified NF-κB, STAT3 and mTOR as upstream regulators involved in mediating the observed transcriptional effects (Heyman-Lindén 2016). In a follow-up study, mice were fed HF diet with or without a supplement of lingonberries. Lingonberries reduced plasma levels of markers of inflammation (SAA) and endotoxemia (LBP) and altered gut microbiota composition and functionality compared to the HF control. Two genera associated with healthy gut mucosa and anti-inflammation, Akkermansia and Faecaliebacterium, were identified as biomarkers. (Heyman-Lindén 2016).
Short titleFood for prevention of diabetes
Effective start/end date2010/01/012017/12/31

Collaborative partners

  • Lund University (lead)
  • Antidiabetic Food Centre, externa anslagsgivare
  • LTH, Lund University