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Nutr Metab (Lond). 2010 Apr 15;7:29. doi: 10.1186/1743-7075-7-29.

Nutritional correlates and dynamics of diabetes in the Nile rat (Arvicanthis niloticus): a novel model for diet-induced type 2 diabetes and the metabolic syndrome.

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Foster Biomedical Research Laboratory, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA, USA, 02454.



The prevalence of Metabolic Syndrome and related chronic diseases, among them non-insulin-dependent (type 2) diabetes mellitus, are on the rise in the United States and throughout the world. Animal models that respond to environmental stressors, such as diet, are useful for investigating the outcome and development of these related diseases.


Within this context, growth and energy relationships were characterized in the Nile rat, an exotic African rodent, as a potential animal model for diet-induced type 2 diabetes mellitus and Metabolic Syndrome.


Compiled data from several studies established the relationship between age, body weight gain (including abdominal adiposity), food and water consumption, and blood glucose levels as determinants of diabetes in male and female Nile rats. Glucose Tolerance Testing, insulin, HbA1c, blood pressure measurements and plasma lipids further characterized the diabetes in relation to criteria of the Metabolic Syndrome, while diet modification with high-fat, low-fiber or food restriction attempted to modulate the disease.


The Nile rat fed lab chow demonstrates signs of the Metabolic Syndrome that evolve into diet-induced non-insulin-dependent (type 2) diabetes mellitus characterized by hyperinsulinemia with rising blood glucose (insulin resistance), abdominal adiposity, and impaired glucose clearance that precedes increased food and water intake, as well as elevated HbA1c, marked elevation in plasma triglycerides and cholesterol, microalbuminuria, and hypertension. Males are more prone than females with rapid progression to diabetes depending on the challenge diet. In males diabetes segregated into early-onset and late-onset groups, the former related to more rapid growth and greater growth efficiency for the calories consumed. Interestingly, no correlation was found between blood glucose and body mass index (overall adiposity) in older male Nile rats in long term studies, whereas blood glucose and the perirenal fat pad, as well as liver and kidney weight, were positively related to early-onset diabetes. Rats weaned early (4-5 wks) and challenged with a high-fat Western-type diet developed diabetes faster, and body fat accumulation was more apparent, whereas food restriction curtailed it.


The Nile rat fed typical rodent diets develops hyperinsulinemia that precedes hyperglycemia (insulin resistance) leading to diet-induced type 2 diabetes associated with hypertriglyceridemia, hypercholesterolemia, and hypertension. Dietary modulation affected growth rate (weight gain and central adiposity) to impact disease progression. This rodent model represents a novel system of gene-diet interactions affecting energy utilization that can provide insight into the prevention and treatment of the type 2 diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome.

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