Dietary curcumin enhances insulin clearance in diet-induced obese mice via regulation of hepatic PI3K-AKT axis and IDE, and preservation of islet integrity

Yoo Kim, Michael Rouse, Isabel González-Mariscal, Josephine M. Egan, Jennifer F. O'Connell*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Background: Although type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) is primarily characterized by sustained high levels of circulating glucose, other factors, such as obesity, chronic inflammation, fatty liver, and islet dysfunction significantly contribute to the development of this disease. To date, curcumin (CUR), a natural polyphenol and primary component of turmeric, shows putative therapeutic properties such as reducing the incidence of obesity-related diseases in mice. However, the mechanism by which CUR regulates insulin levels remains unclear. Methods: This study investigates how dietary CUR improves insulin clearance and maintains a proper range of circulating insulin level in the diet-induced obesity (DIO) mouse model. Male C57BL/6 J mice were fed a control, a high fat/high sugar (HFS) or a HFS diet containing 0.4% (w/w) curcumin (HFS + CUR) (N = 16 per group) for 16 weeks. Results: Mice given HFS + CUR had reduced body weight and fat accumulation in the liver and had lower blood insulin levels under fasting conditions compared to mice on HFS alone, resulting from significantly improved insulin clearance via upregulation of hepatic insulin-degrading enzyme (IDE). We also observed restoration of phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K), especially class Ia catalytic subunits, p110α and p110β, and class Ib regulatory subunit, p101, and phosphorylated protein kinase B (AKT) expression levels in liver on HFS + CUR diet. Additionally, HFS + CUR fed mice had significantly smaller islets of Langerhans and increased glucagon contents compared to HFS fed mice, indicating less secretion of insulin in pancreas. The expression of thioredoxin interacting protein (TXNIP), a pro-oxidant and pro-apoptotic protein, was significantly elevated in mouse and human islets cultured under HFS mimicking conditions, which was mitigated by CUR treatment. Conclusions: CUR supplementation in obese subjects may alleviate the burden imposed by HFS diets. Our data indicate administration of dietary CUR reinstates PI3K, AKT and IDE levels in obese mice. Additionally, CUR treatment preserves islet integrity by downregulation of TXNIP transcription levels. Therefore, dietary CUR may have the potential to serve as a novel therapeutic agent to address the underlying links of obesity and T2DM.

Original languageEnglish
Article number48
Pages (from-to)V
JournalNutrition and Metabolism
Issue number1
StatePublished - 25 Jul 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Curcumin
  • Hepatic insulin signaling pathway
  • Insulin degrading enzyme (IDE)
  • Insulin sensitivity
  • Islet integrity
  • Phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K)


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