Skip to content


Archives of Public Health

Open Access

Supplementation with crude rhubarb extract lessens liver inflammation and hepatic lipid accumulation in a model of acute alcohol-induced steato-hepatitis

  • Audrey M Neyrinck1Email author,
  • Usune Etxeberria1,
  • Alexandra Jouret1 and
  • Nathalie M Delzenne1
Contributed equally
Archives of Public HealthThe official journal of the Belgian Public Health Association201472(Suppl 1):P6

Published: 6 June 2014


Binge consumption of alcohol is an alarming global health problem and is implicated in the pathophysiology of alcoholic liver disease (ALD) [1]. In its early stages, ALD it is characterized by fatty liver [1]. Moreover, numerous studies are supporting the concept that beyond this hepatic steatosis physiological processes, inflammation occurred in the progression of the disease [2]. Strategies directed to reduce fat accumulation and local hepatic inflammation caused by alcohol consumption might succeed blocking the evolution of ALD. In this sense, natural plants rich in bioactive constituents are attracting a growing interest as new therapeutic agents. Several studies have reported health benefits coming from rhubarb extract rich in anthraquinones [3, 4]. The aim of the present study was to test the potential hepatoprotective effects of rhubarb extract supplementation in a model of acute alcohol-induced steato-hepatitis.

Materials and methods

Male C57Bl6J mice were fed with a control diet supplemented or not with 0.3% rhubarb extract (Laboratoires Ortis, Belgium). After 17 days, mice received a huge dose of ethanol (6g/kg bw) and were sacrificed 6 hours after the alcohol challenge. Liver oil red O staining and hepatic lipid contents were determined to assess hepatic steatosis whereas the expression of pro-inflammatory markers were analysed in the liver tissue by quantitative PCR to assess hepatic inflammation.


Ethanol administration caused a massive increase of hepatic triglycerides and, in a lesser extent, in total cholesterol inside the liver tissue (table 1). Rhubarb extract decreased hepatic triglyceride content. This effect was confirmed by histological analysis (figure 1). Interestingly, rhubarb extract supplementation blunted the ethanol-induced F4/80 expression, suggesting a lower recruitment of inflammatory cells inside the liver (figure 2). Moreover, proinflammatory markers such as TNF-α, IL-6, MCP-1 and COX-2 were down-regulated in the liver of mice fed with rhubarb extract (figure 2).
Table 1

Hepatic lipid contents




Ethanol+ Rhubarb Extract

(nmol/mg prot)



233.60 ± 18.64a

454.40 ± 55.65b

345.60 ± 32.24a,b

Total cholesterol

90.38 ± 8.62

161.50 ± 33.06

108.50 ± 14.45

Data with different superscript letters are significantly different at p<0.05 (ANOVA)

Figure 1

Fat accumulation in the liver

Figure 2

Expression of hepatic inflammatory markers


These results suggest that rhubarb extract rich in anthraquinones might decrease liver tissue injury, namely hepatic lipid accumulation and inflammatory disorders caused by acute alcohol consumption.


Authors’ Affiliations

Louvain Drug Research Institute, Metabolism and Nutrition Research Group, Université catholique de Louvain, Brussels, Belgium


  1. Shukla SD, Pruett SB, Szabo G, Arteel GE: Binge ethanol and liver: new molecular developments. Alcoholism, clinical and experimental research. 2013, 37 (4): 550-557.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Huang LL, Wan JB, Wang B, He CW, Ma H, Li TW, Kang JX: Suppression of acute ethanol-induced hepatic steatosis by docosahexaenoic acid is associated with downregulation of stearoyl-CoA desaturase 1 and inflammatory cytokines. Prostaglandins, leukotrienes, and essential fatty acids. 2013, 88 (5): 347-353.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Moon MK, Kang DG, Lee JK, Kim JS, Lee HS: Vasodilatory and anti-inflammatory effects of the aqueous extract of rhubarb via a NO-cGMP pathway. Life sciences. 2006, 78 (14): 1550-1557.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Raal A, Pokk P, Arend A, Aunapuu M, Jogi J, Okva K, Pussa T: Trans-resveratrol alone and hydroxystilbenes of rhubarb (Rheum rhaponticum L.) root reduce liver damage induced by chronic ethanol administration: a comparative study in mice. Phytotherapy research : PTR. 2009, 23 (4): 525-532.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar


© Neyrinck et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2014

This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.