1 Department of Nutritional Biochemistry, University of Potsdam, Institute of Nutritional Science, Nuthetal, Germany.
It is increasingly accepted that dietary cholesterol has a much lower impact on the progression of cardiovascular disease than previously assumed. However, both animal experiments and human studies seem to support the view that dietary cholesterol may contribute to the transition from benign steatosis to the potentially fatal non-alcoholic steatohepatitis. Cholesterol esters and cholesterol accumulate in the hepatocyte and impair its function. This leads to oxidative stress and endoplasmic reticulum stress triggering the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines and rendering the hepatocyte more susceptible to apoptotic or necrotic cell death. Kupffer cells group around dying hepatocytes and phagocytose the hepatocyte debris and lipids. In addition, they are exposed to lipid peroxidation products released from hepatocytes. Kupffer cells, thus activated, release pro-inflammatory, chemotactic and profibrotic cytokines that promote inflammation and fibrosis. Therefore, dietary cholesterol may be harmful to the liver, in particular when administered in combination with polyunsaturated fatty acids that favor lipid peroxidation.