Intermittent fasting induces hypothalamic modifications resulting in low feeding efficiency, low body mass and overeating

Endocrinology. 2014 Jul;155(7):2456-66. doi: 10.1210/en.2013-2057. Epub 2014 May 5.


Intermittent fasting (IF) is an often-used intervention to decrease body mass. In male Sprague-Dawley rats, 24 hour cycles of IF result in light caloric restriction, reduced body mass gain, and significant decreases in the efficiency of energy conversion. Here, we study the metabolic effects of IF in order to uncover mechanisms involved in this lower energy conversion efficiency. After 3 weeks, IF animals displayed overeating during fed periods and lower body mass, accompanied by alterations in energy-related tissue mass. The lower efficiency of energy use was not due to uncoupling of muscle mitochondria. Enhanced lipid oxidation was observed during fasting days, whereas fed days were accompanied by higher metabolic rates. Furthermore, an increased expression of orexigenic neurotransmitters AGRP and NPY in the hypothalamus of IF animals was found, even on feeding days, which could explain the overeating pattern. Together, these effects provide a mechanistic explanation for the lower efficiency of energy conversion observed. Overall, we find that IF promotes changes in hypothalamic function that explain differences in body mass and caloric intake.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Agouti-Related Protein / genetics
  • Agouti-Related Protein / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Body Weight / physiology*
  • Eating / drug effects
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology
  • Fasting / physiology*
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology*
  • Gene Expression
  • Hyperphagia / physiopathology*
  • Hypothalamus / metabolism*
  • Immunoblotting
  • Leptin / pharmacology
  • Lipid Metabolism / physiology
  • Male
  • Mitochondria, Muscle / metabolism
  • Neuropeptide Y / genetics
  • Neuropeptide Y / metabolism
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Thyrotropin-Releasing Hormone / genetics
  • Thyrotropin-Releasing Hormone / metabolism
  • Time Factors


  • Agouti-Related Protein
  • Leptin
  • Neuropeptide Y
  • Thyrotropin-Releasing Hormone