Evidence suggests that oxidative stress plays a major role in the development of metabolic syndrome. This study aims to investigate whether α-lipoic acid (LA), a potent antioxidant, could exert beneficial outcomes in Zucker diabetic fatty (ZDF) rats. Male 6-week-old ZDF rats and their lean counterparts (ZL) were fed for six weeks with a standard diet or a chow diet supplemented with LA (1 g/kg feed). At 12 weeks of age, ZDF rats exhibited an increase in systolic blood pressure, epididymal fat weight per body weight, hyperglycemia, hyperinsulinemia, insulin resistance (HOMA index), adipocyte hypertrophy and a rise in basal superoxide anion (O2
) production in gastrocnemius muscle and a downregulation of epididymal uncoupled protein-1 (UCP-1) protein staining. Treatment with LA prevented the development of hypertension, the rise in whole body weight and O2
production in gastrocnemius muscle, but failed to affect insulin resistance, hyperglycemia and hyperinsulinemia in ZDF rats. LA treatment resulted in a noticeable increase of pancreatic weight and a further adipocyte hypertrophy, along with a decrease in epididymal fat weight per body weight ratio associated with an upregulation of epididymal UCP-1 protein staining in ZDF rats. These findings suggest that LA was efficacious in preventing the development of hypertension, which could be related to its antioxidant properties. The anti-visceral obesity effect of LA appears to be mediated by its antioxidant properties and the induction of UCP-1 protein at the adipose tissue level in ZDF rats. Disorders of glucose metabolism appear, however, to be mediated by other unrelated mechanisms in this model of metabolic syndrome.
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