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Am J Clin Nutr. 1998 Mar;67(3 Suppl):505S-512S.

Dietary fat, genetic predisposition, and obesity: lessons from animal models.

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  • 1Obesity, Diabetes, and Metabolism Section, Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge 70808, USA.


This review focuses on animal studies that examine the role of dietary fat in obesity. It is evident from animal experiments that the percentage of energy derived from fat in the diet is positively correlated with body fat content. With few exceptions, obesity is induced by high-fat diets in monkeys, dogs, pigs, hamsters, squirrels, rats, and mice. The mechanisms responsible for this correlation between body fat and dietary fat content are not clear. It has been proposed that a high-fat diet produces hyperphagia, which is solely responsible for the increased body fat content. However, several studies in various rodent models showed that increased body fat content still results when the hyperphagia is prevented. This suggests that some metabolic effects of high-fat diets, independent of hyperphagia, may also be contributing to the obesity induced by high-fat diets. It is also clear from animal studies that genetic factors significantly modulate the body's response to diets high in fat-derived energy. In contrast with the animal studies, studies in humans that have examined the relation between dietary fat content and body fat are inconclusive. The limitations of cross-sectional studies, the lack of controlled feeding trials, and the importance of genetic variation in response explain the absence of conclusive evidence. The lessons learned from animal models point to dietary fat as one potentially important component in the etiology of human obesity. Additional comprehensive studies are warranted to determine the role of dietary fat in the etiology of human obesity.

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