Fermentable carbohydrate alters hypothalamic neuronal activity and protects against the obesogenic environment

Obesity (Silver Spring). 2012 May;20(5):1016-23. doi: 10.1038/oby.2012.6. Epub 2012 Jan 17.


Obesity has become a major global health problem. Recently, attention has focused on the benefits of fermentable carbohydrates on modulating metabolism. Here, we take a system approach to investigate the physiological effects of supplementation with oligofructose-enriched inulin (In). We hypothesize that supplementation with this fermentable carbohydrate will not only lead to changes in body weight and composition, but also to modulation in neuronal activation in the hypothalamus. Male C57BL/6 mice were maintained on a normal chow diet (control) or a high fat (HF) diet supplemented with either oligofructose-enriched In or corn starch (Cs) for 9 weeks. Compared to HF+Cs diet, In supplementation led to significant reduction in average daily weight gain (mean ± s.e.m.: 0.19 ± 0.01 g vs. 0.26 ± 0.02 g, P < 0.01), total body adiposity (24.9 ± 1.2% vs. 30.7 ± 1.4%, P < 0.01), and lowered liver fat content (11.7 ± 1.7% vs. 23.8 ± 3.4%, P < 0.01). Significant changes were also observed in fecal bacterial distribution, with increases in both Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillius and a significant increase in short chain fatty acids (SCFA). Using manganese-enhanced MRI (MEMRI), we observed a significant increase in neuronal activation within the arcuate nucleus (ARC) of animals that received In supplementation compared to those fed HF+Cs diet. In conclusion, we have demonstrated for the first time, in the same animal, a wide range of beneficial metabolic effects following supplementation of a HF diet with oligofructose-enriched In, as well as significant changes in hypothalamic neuronal activity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animal Feed
  • Animals
  • Appetite Regulation / drug effects*
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / pharmacology*
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Fermentation
  • Hypothalamus / drug effects
  • Hypothalamus / metabolism
  • Hypothalamus / physiopathology*
  • Inulin / pharmacology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Obesity / diet therapy
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Obesity / physiopathology*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Weight Loss*


  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Inulin