Examining the Impact of Estrogen on Binge Feeding, Food-Motivated Behavior, and Body Weight in Female Rats

Obesity (Silver Spring). 2019 Oct;27(10):1617-1626. doi: 10.1002/oby.22582. Epub 2019 Aug 14.


Objective: Binge-eating disorder is associated with diminished self-control, emotional distress, and obesity. In this context, women are nearly twice as likely to develop binge-eating disorder and depression relative to men. Here, the physiological, psychological, and endocrine parameters were characterized in female rats subjected to a binge-eating protocol.

Methods: Nonrestricted female Long Evans rats (n = 8/group) received 2-hour restricted access to a high-fat diet (HFD) (4.54 kcal/g) every day or every third day. The progression of estrous cycling, the functional relevance of estrogen signaling for binge feeding, and binge-induced changes in food motivation were measured.

Results: Female rats developed a binge pattern of feeding that included alternation between caloric overconsumption and compensatory voluntary restriction without impacting estrous cycling. Notably, rats that received daily HFD exposure progressively decreased binge meals. Estrogen replacement in normal cycling or ovariectomized rats mimicked the reduction in body weight in female rats that received daily HFD access. Operant responding was unaffected by binge feeding; however, estrogen augmented operant performance in HFD-exposed rats.

Conclusions: Collectively, these data suggest that estrogen protects against binge-induced increases in body weight gain without affecting food motivation in female rats.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Weight / drug effects*
  • Bulimia / pathology
  • Bulimia / physiopathology*
  • Bulimia / psychology
  • Diet, High-Fat
  • Estradiol / pharmacology*
  • Feeding Behavior / drug effects*
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology
  • Female
  • Meals
  • Motivation / drug effects*
  • Obesity / etiology
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Obesity / psychology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Weight Gain / drug effects


  • Estradiol