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Brain Res Bull. 2003 Sep 30;61(5):511-9.

High fat feeding is associated with increased blood pressure, sympathetic nerve activity and hypothalamic mu opioid receptors.

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  • 1Department of Nutrition and Food Science, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI 48201-1928, USA.


Obesity and high fat diets are associated with an increased prevalence of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension. However, the mechanism(s) linking obesity and high fat diet to these metabolic and cardiovascular disorders are not fully elucidated. Leptin stimulates the formation of pro-opiomelanocortin and its products. The stimulation of the central nervous system (CNS) opioids and their receptors is associated with an increase in cardiovascular dynamics. In this study we hypothesized that obesity changed the CNS opioids and their receptors that could play a role in altered cardiovascular and autonomic nervous regulation in obesity. Male Wistar rats were fed either a high fat (HF) or regular chow (control) diet. After 12 weeks, rats were anesthetized and instrumented to record mean arterial pressure (MAP) and renal sympathetic nerve activity (RSNA). A blood sample was collected and plasma glucose, insulin, leptin, beta-endorphins were measured. The brains were subsequently processed for immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization. The HF rats were larger and had a greater percentage of body fat. Leptin and insulin levels were also higher in the HF animals. Basal MAP and RSNA were significantly higher in HF rats. Additionally, immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization demonstrated that HF rats had increased hypothalamus mu opioid receptors compared to controls. These studies suggest that HF feeding is associated with increased body fat, plasma leptin, insulin, and hypothalamic mu opioid receptors. The increased mu opioid receptors may contribute to the higher MAP and RSNA observed in HF animals.

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