Reduction of anxiety after restricted feeding in the rat: implication for eating disorders

Biol Psychiatry. 2004 Jun 1;55(11):1075-81. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2004.01.026.


Background: Eating-disorder patients exhibit not only abnormal eating attitudes but also pathologic anxiety-like behaviors. The specific nature of the relationship between dieting and anxiety-like behavior is unknown.

Methods: To investigate the adaptational changes that resulted from chronic restricted scheduled feeding (2-hour access per day for 2 weeks) and subsequent free refeeding, longitudinal changes in the microstructure of feeding behavior were studied in male rats. To study the relationship between restricted feeding and anxiety-like behavior, separate rats were tested in the elevated plus-maze under the following conditions: 1) free feeding; 2) acute food restriction (2-hour access for 1 day); 3) chronic food restriction (for 10 days); or 4) postrecovery (after 10 days of free feeding subsequent to chronic food restriction).

Results: The effects of chronic food restriction on meal structure diminished within a few days after refeeding. Decreased anxiety-like behavior was seen during acute and chronic food restriction and did not reflect nonspecific behavioral activation. Anxiolytic-like effects persisted after 10 days of refeeding.

Conclusions: Chronic food restriction produced reductions in anxiety-like behavior that persisted beyond the normalization of food intake patterns. The findings might have etiologic and pathophysiologic relevance for the restrained eating pattern in eating-disorder patients with comorbid anxious symptoms.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological / physiology
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Anxiety / etiology
  • Anxiety / therapy*
  • Body Weight
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Drinking
  • Drinking Behavior
  • Eating
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / complications*
  • Food Deprivation*
  • Food*
  • Male
  • Maze Learning / physiology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar