Proceedings of the Nutrition Society

Research Article

Brain responses to obesogenic diets and diet-induced obesity

Zoë A. Archera1 and Julian G. Mercera1 c1

a1 Division of Obesity and Metabolic Health, Rowett Research Institute, Aberdeen AB21 9SB, UK


Rodent models of diet-induced obesity (DIO) mimic common human obesity more accurately than obese single-gene mutation lines, such as the ob/ob mouse. Sprague-Dawley rats sourced in the UK develop obesity when fed a high-energy diet, but susceptibility to DIO is normally distributed, as might be anticipated for a polygenic trait in an outbred population, in contrast to reports in the literature using ostensibly the same strain of rats sourced in the USA. Nevertheless, the responses of these rats to solid and liquid obesogenic diets are very similar to those reported elsewhere, and this model of DIO has much to commend it as a vehicle for the mechanistic study of susceptibility to DIO, development and reversal of obesity on solid and liquid diets and the response of peripheral and central energy balance systems to the development of obesity and to the obesogenic diets themselves. In general, hypothalamic energy-balance-related systems respond to obesogenic diets and developing obesity with activity changes that appear designed to counter the further development of the obese state. However, these hypothalamic changes are apparently unable to maintain body weight and composition within normal limits, suggesting that attributes of the obesogenic diets either evade the normal regulatory systems and/or engage with reward pathways that override the homeostatic systems. Since diets are a risk factor in the development of obesity, it will be important to establish how obesogenic diets interact with energy-balance pathways and whether there is potential for diets to be manipulated with therapeutic benefit.


c1 *Corresponding author: Dr Julian Mercer, fax +44 1224 716686,