Meibomian Gland Inflammation Linked to High-Fat Diet

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Fat man eating fast food and drinking soda while sitting on sofa and watching TV
Investigators reviewed the mechanism of action that a high-fat diet may have on instigating inflammation in the meibomian glands of mice.

In a recent study, mice fed a high-fat diet experienced meibomian gland inflammation. However, symptoms returned to near-normal levels after the mice were switched to a standard diet, according to researchers. This data may provide insights into therapeutic interventions for hyperlipidemia-induced meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD), according to the findings published in Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science.

During the study, investigators fed mice a high-fat diet to replicate cholesterol levels seen in humans with moderate hyperlipidemia. More specifically, male mice were fed a standard diet, high-fat diet, or high-fat diet supplemented with the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPAR-γ) agonist rosiglitazone for various durations. The team noted body weight, blood lipid levels, and eyelid changes at regular intervals. 

Researchers found that the acinus of the meibomian gland accumulated more lipids in the mice that were fed the high-fat diet. Periglandular CD45-positive and F4/80-positive cell infiltration were more evident in the high-fat diet mice, and they were accompanied by upregulation of inflammation-related cytokines. 

In addition, mice fed a high-fat diet exhibited PPAR-γ downregulation with mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) and nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB) signaling pathways. There also was increased acini cell death and mitochondria damage in mice fed the high-fat diet. Switching the mice to a standard diet and giving them rosiglitazone alleviated inflammation.

Because they observed gland inflammation and a milky secretion on the eyelid margins of the mice on the fatty diet, investigators suspect that both aqueous tear deficiency and MGD impact the dry eye–like ocular surface changes seen in the mice. 

Dietary changes may help treat lipid-related MGD, according to the researchers.


Bu J, Zhang M, Wu Y, et al. High-fat diet induces inflammation of meibomian gland. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. Published online August 16, 2021. doi:10.1167/iovs.62.10.13