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Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2009 Jan;34(1):38-49. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2008.08.010. Epub 2008 Oct 8.

Consummatory, anxiety-related and metabolic adaptations in female rats with alternating access to preferred food.

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Committee on the Neurobiology of Addictive Disorders (CNAD), The Scripps Research Institute, 10550 N. Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA.


Avoidance of and relapse to palatable foods is a qualitative aspect of dieting, a putative risk factor for eating disorders or obesity. The present studies tested the hypotheses that rats with alternating access to highly preferred foods would show: (1) hypophagia, a function of the relative hedonic value of the underaccepted diet, (2) increased anxiety-like behavior and psychomotor arousal when preferred diet was unavailable, (3) obesity-like changes, and (4) stable individual differences in diet-switch-induced hypophagia. Preferences among three high-carbohydrate diets were determined in female Wistar rats (n=16). Adolescent rats (n=162) received the following weekly diet schedules: (1) continuous regular chow (7 days/week), (2) chow (5 days/week) followed by a more preferred diet (2 days/week), or (3) chow (5 days/week) followed by a less preferred chow (2 days/week). Some animals were yoke-restricted (75% calories) when provided chow to increase its rewarding properties. Diurnal locomotor activity was measured in a familiar environment, and anxiety-like behavior was assessed in the elevated plus-maze and defensive withdrawal tests. Rats withdrawn from the preferred diet showed hypophagia, anxiogenic-like behavior, increased locomotion, and weight loss. Chow hypophagia was progressive, individual-specific in magnitude, (partly) non-homeostatic in nature, and blunted by previous chow restriction. Despite eating less, rats cycled with the preferred diet became heavier, fatter, and diurnally less active, with greater feed efficiency and proinflammatory adipokine levels than chow controls. The present diet cycling procedure may model consummatory, anxiety-related, and metabolic effects of qualitative dieting in humans.

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