Effects of thiol antioxidant β-mercaptoethanol on diet-induced obese mice

Siu Wong, James L. Kirkland, Heidi A. Schwanz, Amber L. Simmons, James A. Hamilton, Barbara E. Corkey, Wen Guo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Aims Obesity and insulin resistance are associated with increased oxidant stress. However, treatments of obese subjects with different types of antioxidants often give mixed outcomes. In this work, we sought to determine if long-term supplementation of a thiol antioxidant, β-mercaptoethanol, to diet-induced obese mice may improve their health conditions. Main methods Middle-age mice with pre-existing diet-induced obesity were provided with low concentration β-mercaptoethanol (BME) in drinking water for six months. Animals were assessed for body composition, gripping strength, spontaneous physical and metabolic activities, as well as insulin and pyruvate tolerance tests. Markers of inflammation were assessed in plasma, fat tissue, and liver. Key findings BME-treated mice gained less fat mass and more lean mass than the control animals. They also showed increased nocturnal locomotion and respiration, as well as greater gripping strength. BME reduced plasma lipid peroxidation, decreased abdominal fat tissue inflammation, reduced fat infiltration into muscle and liver, and reduced liver and plasma C-reactive protein. However, BME was found to desensitize insulin signaling in vivo, an effect also confirmed by in vitro experiments. Significance Long-term supplementation of low dose thiol antioxidant BME improved functional outcomes in animals with pre-existing obesity. Additional studies are needed to address the treatment impact on insulin sensitivity if a therapeutic value is to be explored.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)32-41
Number of pages10
JournalLife Sciences
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jun 27 2014


  • Diet-induced obesity
  • Gripping strength
  • Inflammation
  • Insulin resistance
  • Oxidant stress
  • Respiration
  • Spontaneous locomotion
  • Thiol antioxidant

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics(all)


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