Fasting of mice is a common procedure performed in association with many different types of experiments mainly in order to reduce variability in investigatory parameters or to facilitate surgical procedures. However, the effects of fasting not directly related to the investigatory parameters are often ignored. The aim of this review is to present and summarize knowledge about the effects of fasting of mice to facilitate optimization of the fasting procedure for any given study and thereby maximize the scientific outcome and minimize the discomfort for the mice and hence ensure high animal welfare. The results are presented from a number of experimental studies, providing evidence for fasting-induced changes in hormone balance, body weight, metabolism, hepatic enzymes, cardiovascular parameters, body temperature and toxicological responses. A description of relevant normal behaviour and standard physiological parameters is given, concluding that mice are primarily nocturnal and consume two-thirds of their total food intake during the night. It is argued that overnight fasting of mice is not comparable with overnight fasting of humans because the mouse has a nocturnal circadian rhythm and a higher metabolic rate. It is suggested that because many physiological parameters are regulated by circadian rhythms, fasting initiated at different points in the circadian rhythm has different impacts and produces different results.
Keywords: fasting; mice; nutrition; refinement; torpor.