Cafeteria Diet Increases Fat Mass and Chronically Elevates Lumbar Sympathetic Nerve Activity in Rats
Obesity causes sympathetic activation that promotes atherosclerosis, end-organ damage, and hypertension. Because high-fat induced weight gain in rats elevates plasma leptin at 1 to 3 days after the onset of calorie-dense diets, we hypothesized that diet-induced overfeeding will increase sympathetic activity within 1 week after the onset of the regimen. To test this, we continuously measured sympathetic activity and blood pressure before and during the onset of diet-induced obesity using a high-calorie, cafeteria-style diet. Female Wistar rats, in which radiotelemeters had been implanted for continuous monitoring of lumbar sympathetic activity, mean arterial pressure, and heart rate, were randomly assigned to groups that received regular chow (control) or a cafeteria diet for a period of 15 days. This short-term, cafeteria-feeding regimen caused modest but nonsignificant increases in body weight (P=0.07) and a doubling of brown and white adipose tissue (P<0.01). The increases in fat mass were accompanied by elevations in plasma leptin (P<0.001) but no change in glucose. Overall heart rates and blood pressure were higher in cafeteria rats compared with controls (P<0.05). Cafeteria diet-induced weight gain caused increases in lumbar sympathetic nerve activity that became significant by the 12th day of the diet (P<0.001). These data show, for the first time, that the high-fat, cafeteria-style diet stimulates sustained increases in lumbar sympathetic neural drive in rats.
- © 2012 American Heart Association, Inc.