Carbohydrate-enriched diet predispose to anxiety and depression-like behavior after stress in mice

Nutr Neurosci. 2018 Jan;21(1):33-39. doi: 10.1080/1028415X.2016.1213529. Epub 2016 Jul 29.


Objectives: Obesity is a chronic disease frequently associated with serious co-morbidities, such as diabetes type II, metabolic syndrome, and psychiatric disorders. Little is known, however, regarding the behavioral consequences of modified diet constituents and the propensity to development of stress related disorders. Thus, the aim of this study was to verify whether chronic exposure to a normocaloric/high-carbohydrate diet will modify the animal's behavior after different stressful stimuli.

Methods: BALB/c mice were fed for 12 weeks with a standard chow diet or high refined carbohydrate-containing diet (HC). Following this period, independent groups of animals were exposed to different stress paradigms: 1 - two hours of restraint stress followed by exposure to the Elevated Plus Maze test (EPM) 24 hours later; 2 - The contextual fear conditioning (CFC) test and 3 - the tail suspension test (TST).

Results: Despite no change on total body weight, animals fed with HC diet showed increase in serum leptin levels and higher adiposity compared to diet control group. In behavioral tests, animals from HC diet group displayed reduction in the percentage of entries into the open arms of the EPM, evaluated 24 hours after restraint stress, suggesting an anxiogenic-like effect. It is also observed increase in aversive memory in the CFC test and depressive-like behavior in TST.

Discussion: Our results suggest that a moderate obesity, induced by high refined carbohydrate diet, may facilitate the development of anxiety and depressive-like behaviors after the stress. The mechanisms responsible for such effects remain to be elucidated.

Keywords: Anxiety; Carbohydrate diet; Depression; Stress.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anxiety / diagnosis*
  • Anxiety / etiology
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects
  • Body Weight
  • Depression / diagnosis*
  • Depression / etiology
  • Diet
  • Diet, Carbohydrate Loading / adverse effects*
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Stress, Psychological*


  • Dietary Carbohydrates