The effects of dietary saturated fat on basal hypothalamic neuroinflammation in rats

Brain Behav Immun. 2014 Feb;36:35-45. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2013.09.011. Epub 2013 Sep 25.


Recent evidence has demonstrated that consumption of high fat diets can trigger brain inflammation and subsequent injury in the absence of any peripheral inflammatory signaling. Here we sought to investigate whether a link exists between the concentration of highly saturated fats in the diet and the development of inflammation in the brain of rats and, whether the source of the saturated fat was an important factor in this process. Adult male rats had access to diets with a moderate level of total fat (32% of calories as fat) varying in level of saturated fat [low (20%) vs high (>60%)] and its source (butter or coconut oil). After 8 weeks of diet exposure peripheral and central tissues were collected for analysis of inflammatory signals. Neither blood nor white adipose tissue exhibited any changes in inflammatory mediators regardless of the saturated fat content or the source. In the brain however, we observed significant hypothalamic upregulation of the expression of markers of glial activation as well as of interleukin (IL)-1,6 and nuclear factor (NF)-IL-6, which were highest in the group fed the butter-based diets. The increase in these inflammatory mediators had no effect on basal body temperature or the temperature response to systemic lipopolysaccharide (LPS). The present results indicate that hypothalamic inflammation associated with consumption of diets high in fat is directly linked to the saturated fat content as well as the source of that fat. These effects are likely linked to other pathophysiological changes in the regulation of metabolism.

Keywords: Cytokines; Inflammation; Obesity; Saturated fat diet; Sickness behavior.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue, White / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Body Temperature
  • CCAAT-Enhancer-Binding Protein-beta / metabolism
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Dietary Fats / toxicity*
  • Hypothalamus / metabolism*
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Interleukin-6 / metabolism
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar


  • CCAAT-Enhancer-Binding Protein-beta
  • Cytokines
  • Dietary Fats
  • Interleukin-6