A high-fat meal induces low-grade endotoxemia: evidence of a novel mechanism of postprandial inflammation

Clett Erridge, Teresa Attina, Corinne M. Spickett, David J. Webb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Bacterial endotoxin is a potently inflammatory antigen that is abundant in the human gut. Endotoxin circulates at low concentrations in the blood of all healthy individuals, although elevated concentrations are associated with an increased risk of atherosclerosis.
Objective: We sought to determine whether a high-fat meal or smoking increases plasma endotoxin concentrations and whether such concentrations are of physiologic relevance.
Design: Plasma endotoxin and endotoxin neutralization capacity were measured for 4 h in 12 healthy men after no meal, 3 cigarettes, a high-fat meal, or a high-fat meal with 3 cigarettes by using the limulus assay.
Results: Baseline endotoxin concentrations were 8.2 pg/mL (interquartile range: 3.4–13.5 pg/mL) but increased significantly (P < 0.05) by ≈50% after a high-fat meal or after a high-fat meal with cigarettes but not after no meal or cigarettes alone. These results were validated by the observations that a high-fat meal with or without cigarettes, but not no meal or smoking, also significantly (P < 0.05) reduced plasma endotoxin neutralization capacity, which is an indirect measure of endotoxin exposure. Human monocytes, but not aortic endothelial cells, were responsive to transient (30 s) or low-dose (10 pg/mL) exposure to endotoxin. However, plasma from whole blood treated with as little as 10 pg endotoxin/mL increased the endothelial cell expression of E-selectin, at least partly via tumor necrosis factor-α–induced cellular activation.
Conclusions: Low-grade endotoxemia may contribute to the postprandial inflammatory state and could represent a novel potential contributor to endothelial activation and the development of atherosclerosis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1286-1292
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2007

Bibliographical note

M1 - Article


  • atherosclerosis
  • endotoxin
  • inflammation.
  • diet
  • postprandial lipemia
  • smoking
  • blood mononuclear-cells
  • factor-kappa-b
  • nonalcoholic steatohepatitis
  • carotid atherosclerosis
  • neutralizing-capacity
  • insulin-resistance
  • healthy-volunteers
  • cytokine release
  • olive oil
  • activation
  • personal health and hygiene, including exercise, nutrition
  • biology
  • internal medicine


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