Physiological, Behavioral and Biochemical Effects of a Cafeteria Diet in Male and Female Rats

Student Author(s)

Cassondra Cramer

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Christopher Barney

Document Type


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High-fat, high-sugar cafeteria diets and their association with obesity lead to increases in metabolic syndrome and decreased lifespan in humans. As a growing health epidemic, the effects of obesity are taxing the quality of life as well as the healthcare system. In this study sixteen (M=8, F=8) Sprague-Dawley rats were given standard rat chow (SC) while sixteen (M=7, F=9) were provided an energy-dense cafeteria (CAF) diet for 10 weeks. We aimed to evaluate how the CAF diet impacts the physiological make up and behavioral responses in relation to metabolic changes and obesity and any interaction with the sex of the animal. Dopamine (D2) and leptin receptor concentrations were analyzed using Western blot to determine biochemical influences contributing to physiological and behavioral responses. Body weight increased over time at a significantly greater rate in the CAF diet group resulting in diet-induced obesity with significant differences between male and female rats. Female rats were shown to drink significantly more water and saccharine solution than male rats, consistent with prior findings. SC rats also drank significantly more saccharine solution suggesting a reduced pleasure response due to a CAF diet. CAF diet rats showed a significantly greater metabolic rate and significantly more brown fat as previously reported. In addition, the CAF diet was associated with alterations in pre-pulse inhibition and exploratory behavior. These results indicate that in addition to physiological responses CAF diet may alter behavior in male and female rats.

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