High fat diets, gut health and diabetes

Project Details

Recent human dietary changes have included large increases in the proportions of fats in the diet. These diets are a threat to gut and liver health and for the development of diabetes.

Our recent studies have shown that high fat diets damage enteric neurons, and it is likely that they also impinge on gut endocrine cells. The aim of the study is to determine the extent to which the storage of hormones in enteroendocrine cells and the integrity of enteric neurons are changed by a high fat diet and identify the mechanisms involved.

High fat diets lead to compromised liver function (fatty liver disease) and damage to enteric neurons. The liver disease is probably contributed to by damage to the gut wall, causing gut leakiness and the entry of toxins and bacteria into the veins that take blood from the gut to the liver. A later development is diabetes. Damage to organs is exacerbated by cooking at high temperature, leading to the formation of advanced glycation products.


Project supervisor:

  • Dr Rachel McQuade

Project members:

  • Professor John Furness, Dr Martin Stebbing, Tess Fazio Coles

Research Publications

Rivera LR, Leung C, Pustovit RV, Hunne B, Andrikopoulos S, Herath C, Testro A, Angus PW & Furness JB. Damage to enteric neurons occurs in mice that develop fatty liver disease but not diabetes in response to a high-fat diet. Neurogastroenterol Motil 26, 1188-1199 (2014).

Leung, C, Herath, CB, Jia, Z, Andrikopoulos, S, Brown, BE, Davies, MJ, Rivera, LR, Furness, JB; Forbes, JM, Angus, PW: Dietary advanced glycation end-products aggravate non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.  World J Gastroenterol. 22, 8026-8040 (2016)

Leung, C, Rivera, LR, Angus, PW, Furness JB: The role of the gut microbiota in NAFLD. Nature Rev. Gastroenterol. Hepatol. 13, 412-425 (2016

Research Group

Furness laboratory: Digestive physiology and nutrition

Faculty Research Themes

Infection and Immunology

Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact the research group leader.

Department / Centre

Anatomy and Neuroscience

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