Background: Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), the most common chronic liver disease, is the leading cause of cryptogenic cirrhosis and has consistently been implicated in related metabolic disorders, such as dyslipidemia and type 2 diabetes (T2D). However, the pathogenesis of NAFLD remains to be elucidated, and no established therapeutic regimens for treating NAFLD exist. Adenosine monophosphate (AMP)-activated protein kinase (AMPK), the main cellular energy sensor, has been implicated as a key regulator of hepatic lipid and glucose metabolism. Recently, emerging evidence indicates that many plant-derived natural products are capable of ameliorating NAFLD by targeting AMPK.
Methods: The published literature in PubMed relating to this topic was searched through June 2016.
Results: Significant advances have been made with respect to understanding the protective effects of plant-derived natural products against NAFLD. A variety of natural products, including alkaloids (berberine, demethyleneberberine, nicotine, caffeine, etc.), polyphenols (resveratrol, puerarin, curcumin, caffeic acid, etc.) and other compounds (β- caryophyllene, gastrodin, compound K, betulinic acid, etc.), have demonstrated promising results in preclinical studies. Mechanistic studies of these compounds have focused on their activation of AMPK and its downstream effectors involved in lipid metabolism.
Conclusion: The findings of this review confirm that plant-derived natural products capable of activating the AMPK signaling pathway are potential therapeutic agents for NAFLD.