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J Exp Zool A Ecol Genet Physiol. 2014 Feb;321(2):98-107. doi: 10.1002/jez.1840. Epub 2013 Oct 21.

Effect of dietary fatty acids on metabolic rate and nonshivering thermogenesis in golden hamsters.

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Faculty of Biology and Environment Protection, Department of Animal Physiology, Nicolaus Copernicus University, ToruĊ„, Poland.


Hibernating rodents prior to winter tend to select food rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). Several studies found that such diet may positively affect their winter energy budget by enhancing torpor episodes. However, the effect of composition of dietary fatty acids (FA) on metabolism of normothermic heterotherms is poorly understood. Thus we tested whether diets different in FA composition affect metabolic rate (MR) and the capacity for nonshivering thermogenesis (NST) in normothermic golden hamsters (Mesocricetus auratus). Animals were housed in outdoor enclosures from May 2010 to April 2011 and fed a diet enriched with PUFA (i.e., standard food supplemented weekly with sunflower and flax seeds) or with saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids (SFA/MUFA, standard food supplemented with mealworms). Since diet rich in PUFA results in lower MR in hibernating animals, we predicted that PUFA-rich diet would have similar effect on MR of normothermic hamsters, that is, normothermic hamsters on the PUFA diet would have lower metabolic rate in cold and higher NST capacity than hamsters supplemented with SFA/MUFA. Indeed, in winter resting metabolic rate (RMR) below the lower critical temperature was higher and NST capacity was lower in SFA/MUFA-supplemented animals than in PUFA-supplemented ones. These results suggest that the increased capacity for NST in PUFA-supplemented hamsters enables them lower RMR below the lower critical temperature of the thermoneural zone.

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