A short term high-fat high-sucrose diet in mice impairs optic nerve recovery after injury and this is not reversed by exercise

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The aim of the current work was to test whether increased intake of dietary fat and sucrose in mice modifies the response of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) of the optic nerve to injury, and whether any effects of diet are influenced by physical activity levels. C57BL/6J mice were given a high-fat high-sucrose (HFS) diet for 7 weeks, with or without exposure to regular exercise by swimming (60 min/day, 5 days/week). Injury to RGCs was subsequently induced by acute elevation of intraocular pressure (IOP) and retinas were assessed for function and structure. We report that mice on a HFS diet had similar body mass and blood glucose levels compared to mice on a control diet but suffered a 30% greater loss of RGC function following injury, as measured in vivo with the electroretinogram. RGC dysfunction in retinas from mice on the HFS diet was accompanied by activation of retinal macroglia but was not associated with neuronal cell loss. Exercising mice by swimming did not prevent HFS-induced RGC dysfunction in response to injury. This study shows for the first time that a short term increase in dietary fat and sucrose enhances the vulnerability of RGCs to dysfunction and cell stress after an acute injury, and that this is independent of obesity or hyperglycemia. Furthermore, our results suggest that detrimental effects of diet predominate over protective effects of exercise.

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