Repeated fasting/refeeding elevates plasma leptin without increasing fat mass in rats

Physiol Behav. 2003 Mar;78(3):459-64. doi: 10.1016/s0031-9384(03)00016-7.


It is known that repeated fasting and refeeding increase capacity of fat storage in adipose tissue as an adaptive response to fasting. However, the amount of weight gain in fasted/refed animals falls behind the control level in most rodent studies. Leptin, an adipocyte-derived hormone that impacts on energy homeostasis, may be up-regulated by repeated cycles of fasting and refeeding. In this study, we investigated the adaptive response of leptin to repeated cycles of 1-day fasting and 1-day refeeding for 42 days in rats. The repeated fasting and refeeding (RFR) rats gained less body weight than the controls. Daily food intake of the RFR rats was decreased after Day 16 and remained suppressed. Circulating leptin levels of the RFR rats were significantly elevated at Day 35 compared with the controls and at Day 44 compared with the controls and pair-fed (PF) rats. Leptin mRNA levels of these rats were also significantly increased in retroperitoneal white adipose tissue (RT-WAT) compared with the controls and PF rats. Moreover, hypothalamic proopiomelanocortic (POMC) gene expression was augmented in the RFR rats compared with the controls and PF rats. However, there was no statistical difference in percent visceral fat mass among the experimental groups. Lipoprotein lipase (LPL) mRNA levels of RFR rats were significantly increased in RT-WAT compared with the controls and PF rats. These data indicated that leptin was up-regulated in response to chronic repeated fasting and refeeding cycles without a concomitant increase in adiposity, and the augmented leptin levels were associated with an increase in POMC gene expression, reduced food intake, and diminished body weight gain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology
  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Body Composition
  • Eating
  • Fasting / blood
  • Food Deprivation / physiology*
  • Insulin / blood
  • Leptin / blood*
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred BN
  • Rats, Inbred F344


  • Insulin
  • Leptin