Fat rather than sugar diet leads to binge-type eating, anticipation, effort behavior and activation of the corticolimbic system

Nutr Neurosci. 2021 Jul;24(7):508-519. doi: 10.1080/1028415X.2019.1651104. Epub 2019 Aug 16.


Objectives: One factor contributing to the development of obesity is overeating palatable food. The palatability of food is driven by specific energy yielding combinations and flavor profiles that may contribute to its overconsumption. In rodents, restricted access to palatable food (PF) is a strong stimulus to trigger binge-type eating behavior (BTE), food anticipatory activity (FAA), effort behaviors and withdrawal symptoms. This is accompanied by plastic changes in corticolimbic areas associated with motivation and reward responses. Palatable food contains mainly a mixture of fat and sugar, thus, the contribution of each macronutrient for the behavioral and neuronal changes is unclear.Methods: In this study, Wistar rats were exposed to restricted access to 50% fat rich diet (FRD) or 50% sugar rich diet (SRD) in order to compare the intensity of BTE, FAA, effort behaviors and withdrawal responses.Results: In corticolimbic areas, c-Fos activation and ΔFosB accumulation were evaluated. After an acute exposition, rats ate more SRD than FRD, but FDR stimulated higher c-Fos. After chronic administration, the FDR group exhibited higher levels of BTE and FAA; this was associated with higher c-Fos and accumulation of ΔFosB in the corticolimbic system. Similar effects in the FRD group were observed after one week of withdrawal.Discussion: Present data indicate that the fat rich diet is a stronger stimulus than the sugar rich diet for the development of wanting behavior for reward and the underlying plastic changes in the corticolimbic system. The differential effects may be due to the differing caloric density of the diets.

Keywords: Palatable food; anticipatory activity; binge-type eating; corticolimbic system; effort behavior; fat rich diet; sugar rich diet; ΔFosB.