Effect of long-term dietary sphingomyelin supplementation on atherosclerosis in mice

Chung, R. W., Wang, Z., Bursill, C. A., Wu, B. J., Barter, P. J., & Rye, K. A.

PloS one 12.12 (2017): e0189523.

Sphingomyelin (SM) levels in the circulation correlate positively with atherosclerosis burden. SM is a ubiquitous component of human diets, but it is unclear if dietary SM increases circulating SM levels. Dietary choline increases atherosclerosis by raising circulating trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) levels in mice and humans. As SM has a choline head group, we ask in this study if dietary SM accelerates atherosclerotic lesion development by increasing circulating SM and TMAO levels. Three studies were performed: (Study 1) C57BL/6 mice were maintained on a high fat diet with or without SM supplementation for 4 weeks prior to quantification of serum TMAO and SM levels; (Study 2) atherosclerosis was studied in apoE-/- mice after 16 weeks of a high fat diet without or with SM supplementation and (Study 3) apoE-/- mice were maintained on a chow diet for 19 weeks without or with SM supplementation and antibiotic treatment prior to quantification of atherosclerotic lesions and serum TMAO and SM levels. SM consumption did not increase circulating SM levels or atherosclerosis in high fat-fed apoE-/- mice. Serum TMAO levels in C57BL/6 mice were low and had no effect atherosclerosis lesion development. Dietary SM supplementation significantly reduced atherosclerotic lesion area in the aortic arch of chow-fed apoE-/- mice. This study establishes that dietary SM does not affect circulating SM levels or increase atherosclerosis in high fat-fed apoE-/- mice, but it is anti-atherogenic in chow-fed apoE-/- mice.

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