Food restriction by intermittent fasting induces diabetes and obesity and aggravates spontaneous atherosclerosis development in hypercholesterolaemic mice

Br J Nutr. 2014 Mar 28;111(6):979-86. doi: 10.1017/S0007114513003383. Epub 2013 Nov 1.


Different regimens of food restriction have been associated with protection against obesity, diabetes and CVD. In the present study, we hypothesised that food restriction would bring benefits to atherosclerosis- and diabetes-prone hypercholesterolaemic LDL-receptor knockout mice. For this purpose, 2-month-old mice were submitted to an intermittent fasting (IF) regimen (fasting every other day) over a 3-month period, which resulted in an overall 20 % reduction in food intake. Contrary to our expectation, epididymal and carcass fat depots and adipocyte size were significantly enlarged by 15, 72 and 68 %, respectively, in the IF mice compared with the ad libitum-fed mice. Accordingly, plasma levels of leptin were 50 % higher in the IF mice than in the ad libitum-fed mice. In addition, the IF mice showed increased plasma levels of total cholesterol (37 %), VLDL-cholesterol (195 %) and LDL-cholesterol (50 %). As expected, in wild-type mice, the IF regimen decreased plasma cholesterol levels and epididymal fat mass. Glucose homeostasis was also disturbed by the IF regimen in LDL-receptor knockout mice. Elevated levels of glycaemia (40 %), insulinaemia (50 %), glucose intolerance and insulin resistance were observed in the IF mice. Systemic inflammatory markers, TNF-α and C-reactive protein, were significantly increased and spontaneous atherosclerosis development were markedly increased (3-fold) in the IF mice. In conclusion, the IF regimen induced obesity and diabetes and worsened the development of spontaneous atherosclerosis in LDL-receptor knockout mice. Although being efficient in a wild-type background, this type of food restriction is not beneficial in the context of genetic hypercholesterolaemia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipocytes / pathology
  • Animals
  • Atherosclerosis / etiology*
  • Blood Glucose / analysis
  • Body Composition
  • Cell Size
  • Cholesterol / blood
  • Cholesterol, LDL / blood
  • Cholesterol, VLDL / blood
  • Diabetes Mellitus / etiology*
  • Epididymis
  • Fasting / adverse effects*
  • Food Deprivation
  • Glucose Intolerance / etiology
  • Hypercholesterolemia / complications*
  • Hypercholesterolemia / genetics
  • Inflammation / etiology
  • Insulin / blood
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Obesity / etiology*
  • Receptors, LDL / deficiency


  • Blood Glucose
  • Cholesterol, LDL
  • Cholesterol, VLDL
  • Insulin
  • Receptors, LDL
  • Cholesterol