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PLoS One. 2009;4(4):e5370. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0005370. Epub 2009 Apr 29.

Persistent diet-induced obesity in male C57BL/6 mice resulting from temporary obesigenic diets.

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  • 1Laboratory of Biological Modeling, National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, United States of America.



Does diet-induced obesity persist after an obesigenic diet is removed? We investigated this question by providing male C57BL/6 mice with free access to two different obesigenic diets followed by a switch to chow to determine if obesity was reversible.


Male C57BL/6 mice were randomly assigned to five weight-matched groups: 1) C group that continuously received a chow diet; 2) HF group on a 60% high fat diet; 3) EN group on the high fat diet plus liquid Ensure; 4) HF-C group switched from high fat to chow after 7 weeks; 5) EN-C group switched from high fat plus Ensure to chow after 7 weeks. All food intake was ad libitum. Body weight was increased after 7 weeks on both obesigenic diets (44.6+/-0.65, 39.8+/-0.63, and 28.6+/-0.63 g for EN, HF, and C groups, respectively) and resulted in elevated concentrations of serum insulin, glucose, and leptin and lower serum triglycerides. Development of obesity in HF and EN mice was caused by increased energy intake and a relative decrease of average energy output along with decreased ambulatory activity. After the switch to chow, the HF-C and EN-C groups lost weight but subsequently maintained a state of persistent obesity in comparison to the C group (34.8+/-1.2, 34.1+/-1.2 vs. 30.8+/-0.8 g respectively; P<0.05) with a 40-50% increase of body fat. All serum hormones and metabolites returned to control levels with the exception of a trend for increased leptin. The HF-C and EN-C groups had an average energy output in line with the C group and the persistent obesity was maintained despite a non-significant increase of energy intake of less than 1 kcal/d at the end of the study.


Our results illustrate the importance of considering the history of energy imbalance in determining body weight and that a persistent elevation of body weight after removal of obesigenic diets can result from very small increases of energy intake.

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