Palatable Western-style Cafeteria Diet as a Reliable Method for Modeling Diet-induced Obesity in Rodents

J Vis Exp. 2019 Nov 1;(153). doi: 10.3791/60262.


Obesity is rapidly increasing in incidence in developed and developing countries and is known to induce or exacerbate many diseases. The health burden of obesity and its comorbid conditions highlight the need for better understanding of its pathogenesis, yet ethical constraints limit studies in humans. To this end externally valid models of obesity in laboratory animals are essential for the understanding of being overweight and obesity. While many species have been used to model the range of changes that accompany obesity in humans, rodents are most commonly used. Our laboratory has developed a western-style cafeteria diet that consistently leads to considerable weight gain and markers of metabolic disease in rodents. The diet exposes rodents to a variety of highly palatable foods to induce hyperphagia, modeling the modern western food environment. This diet rapidly induces weight gain and body fat accumulation in rats allowing for the study of effects of overeating and obesity. While the cafeteria diet may not provide the same control over macronutrient and micronutrient profile as purified high-fat or high-fat, high-sugar diets, the cafeteria diet typically induces a more severe metabolic phenotype than that observed with purified diets and is more in line with metabolic disturbances observed in the overweight and obese human population.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Video-Audio Media

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diet, Western / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Metabolic Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Metabolic Diseases / etiology
  • Metabolic Diseases / metabolism
  • Models, Biological*
  • Obesity / diagnosis*
  • Obesity / etiology
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley