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Physiol Behav. 2015 Oct 15;150:24-30. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2015.02.038. Epub 2015 Feb 21.

Metabolic consequences of chronic intermittent mild stress exposure.

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Deparment of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH 45237, USA.
Department of Internal Medicine, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH 45237, USA.
Deparment of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH 45237, USA. Electronic address:


Chronic stress in humans has divergent effects on food intake, with some individuals reporting increased vs. decreased food intake during stress. This divergence may depend in part on stress intensity, with higher-intensity stressors preferentially promoting anorexia. Consistent with this idea, rodents given a high-intensity chronic variable stress paradigm have robustly decreased food intake and body weight gain. However, the metabolic effects of a less intense chronic stress paradigm are not clear. Thus in the present study, adult male rats were given chronic intermittent mild stress (CIMS) exposure (3 cycles, in which each cycle consists of once daily mild stress for 5 days/week for 2 weeks, followed by 2 weeks of no stress) vs. non-stress controls, combined with ongoing access to a palatable diet (PD; choice of chow, high-fat diet, 30% sucrose drink, and water) vs. control diet (chow and water). As expected, access to PD increased caloric intake, body weight gain, and adiposity, and impaired glucose tolerance. CIMS decreased body weight gain only during the first cycle of stress and did not affect body weight gain thereafter, regardless of diet. Moreover, CIMS did not alter total food intake, adiposity or glucose tolerance regardless of diet. Lastly, CIMS transiently increased high-fat diet preference in PD-fed rats during the first stress cycle. Collectively, these results suggest that CIMS has relatively modest metabolic effects that occur primarily during initial stress exposure. These results support the hypothesis that the metabolic consequences of chronic stress vary with stress intensity and/or frequency.


Chronic stress; Diet choice; Diet preference; Glucose tolerance; Palatable diet

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