1 Department of Physiology, University of Alberta, Edmonton T6G 2H7, AB, Canada. Electronic address: email@example.com.
Carotenoids form an important part of the human diet, consumption of which has been associated with many health benefits. With the growing global burden of liver disease, increasing attention has been paid on the possible beneficial role that carotenoids may play in the liver. This review focuses on carotenoid actions in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), and alcoholic liver disease(ALD). Indeed, many human studies have suggested an association between decreased circulating levels of carotenoids and increased incidence of NAFLD and ALD. The literature describing supplementation of individual carotenoids in rodent models of NAFLD and ALD is reviewed, with particular attention paid to β-carotene and lycopene, but also including β-cryptoxanthin, lutein, zeaxanthin, and astaxanthin. The effect of beta-carotene oxygenase 1 and 2 knock-out mice on hepatic lipid metabolism is also discussed. In general, there is evidence to suggest that carotenoids have beneficial effects in animal models of both NAFLD and ALD. Mechanistically, these benefits may occur via three possible modes of action: 1) improved hepatic antioxidative status broadly attributed to carotenoids in general, 2) the generation of vitamin A from β-carotene and β-cryptoxanthin, leading to improved hepatic retinoid signaling, and 3) the generation of apocarotenoid metabolites from β-carotene and lycopene, that may regulate hepatic signaling pathways. Gaps in our knowledge regarding carotenoid mechanisms of action in the liver are highlighted throughout, and the review ends by emphasizing the importance of dose effects, mode of delivery, and mechanism of action as important areas for further study. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled Carotenoids recent advances in cell and molecular biology edited by Johannes von Lintig and Loredana Quadro.