Hypothalamic Gene Expression Is Altered in Underweight but Obese Juvenile Male Sprague-Dawley Rats Fed a High-Energy Diet1

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The incidence of obesity, with its associated health risks, is on the increase throughout the western world affecting all age groups, including children. The typical western diet is high in fat and sugar and low in complex carbohydrates. This study looks at the effects of feeding an equivalent high-energy (HE) diet to growing rats. Juvenile male Sprague-Dawley rats that were fed an HE (18.9 kJ/g) diet starting —10 d after weaning gained less weight than littermates fed a nonpurified (14 kJ/g) diet. Despite an initial hyperphagia following the change in diet, HE rats also consumed less energy. Although they exhibited reduced weight gain, HE rats were relatively obese; fat pad weights were elevated for all 4 dissected depots. HE-fed rats exhibited symptoms of developing metabolic syndrome with elevated plasma concentrations of glucose, triglycerides, nonesterified fatty acids, insulin, and leptin. In addition, leptin receptor gene expression in the hypothalamic arcuate nucleus (ARC) and ventromedial nucleus of HE rats was reduced. Consistent with the elevated serum leptin and other peripheral signals in HE rats, hypothalamic gene expression for the orexigenic neuropeptides, neuropeptide Y (ARC and dorsomedial nucleus), and agouti-related peptide (AgRP), was reduced. This reduction in orexigenic signaling and decline in energy intake is consistent with an apparent attempt to counter the further development of an obese state in rats consuming an energy-dense diet. The juvenile Sprague-Dawley rat has potential in the development of a model of childhood diet-induced obesity. J. Nutr. 134: 1369-1374, 2004.

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