Areca nut (commonly known as betel nut) chewing has been shown to be associated with metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease (CVD). The mechanism by which betel nut ingestion could lead to development of CVD is not precisely known; however, dyslipidemia, hyperhomocysteinemia, hypertriglyceridemia and inflammation could be some of the potential risk factors. This study was undertaken to investigate the effects of two dosages of betel nut on homocysteinemia, inflammation and some of the components of metabolic syndrome, such as hypertriglyceridemia, low HDL-cholesterol, obesity and fasting hyperglycemia in a rat model.
Thirty-six adult female Sprague Dawley rats, aged 10–12 weeks were divided into three equal groups. Group-1 served as the control group (n = 12) and received water, whereas groups 2 and 3 were given water suspension of betel nut orally in two dosages, 30 mg and 60 mg, respectively for a period of 5 weeks. At the end of the fifth week, the animals were weighed and sacrificed, blood was collected and liver, kidney, spleen and stomach were removed for histological examination.
Plasma/serum was analyzed for glucose, total cholesterol, HDL-cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, triglycerides, homocysteine, folate, vitamin B12 and N-acetyl-β-D-glucosaminidase (NAG) – a marker of inflammation.
When the mean concentration values of 3 groups were compared using one way ANOVA followed by Tukey’s HSD-test, there was a significant increase in the concentration of total cholesterol (p = 0.04) in the group receiving 30 mg/day betel nut compared to the control group. However, administration of a higher dose of betel nut (60 mg/day) had no significant effect on the serum concentrations of glucose, total cholesterol, HDL-cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, and NAG. Histological examination of spleen revealed a dose-dependent extramedullary hematopoiesis. No other remarkable change in the tissues (liver, kidney and stomach) was observed.
Mean serum/plasma levels of folate, vitamin B12 and homocysteine were not found to be significantly different in all the groups. Betel nut ingestion had no effect on the mean body weights of rats.
Low dosage of betel nut is found to be associated with hypercholesterolemia. However, betel nut ingestion is not associated with hyperhomocysteinemia, hypertriglyceridemia, hyperglycemia, inflammation and increase in body weight in a rat model.