Energy balance and brown fat activity in rats fed cafeteria diets or high-fat, semisynthetic diets at several levels of intake

Nancy J. Rothwell, Michael J. Stock, Barry P. Warwick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The object of the study was to determine the relative effects of hyperphagia and diet composition on energy balance and thermogenic activity in rats fed highly palatable cafeteria diets. Three types of diet were used: a pelleted stock diet, a cafeteria diet composed of a variety of human food items, and semisynthetic diets with nutrient compositions similar to the stock and cafeteria diets. Feeding rats a high-fat semisynthetic diet (similar to the cafeteria diet) at a energy intake equivalent to that of stock-fed controls (approximately 2.5 times maintenance) resulted in greater body energy gains and energetic efficiencies. These effects were probably due to the reduced energy costs of fat synthesis associated with high-fat diets. No effect of dietary composition on body energy gain was seen in animals fed below 2.5 times maintenance. Animals fed four cafeteria food items each day, or the high-fat semisynthetic diet, at 2.5 times maintenance showed significantly greater thermogenic responses to norepinephrine, increased brown adipose tissue (BAT) mass, and greater BAT mitochondrial GDP binding than controls on the same intake. Injection of propranolol reduced oxygen consumption in all groups, but the effect was greater in animals on higher intakes and was highest in the cafeteria groups. Thus, increasing fat intake, either by presenting cafeteria food items or by feeding a high-fat semisynthetic diet at the same level of intake as controls, stimulates the sympathetic nervous system and BAT activity. However, any changes in thermogenesis in these rats would appear to be masked by the reduced energy costs of lipid synthesis, and energy expenditure is only seen to rise when intakes are increased well above the level of controls. © 1985.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)474-480
Number of pages6
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 1985


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