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Sucrose and fat content significantly affects palatable food consumption in adolescent male and female rats

Tenk, Christine M., Felfeli, Tina
Appetite 2017 v.118 pp. 49-59
adolescence, adolescents, adults, animal models, females, foods, gender differences, humans, ingestion, lipid content, males, overeating, rats, sucrose
Hyperpalatable foods are highly pleasurable and possess a heightened capacity to stimulate eating. Adolescents appear especially vulnerable to hyperpalatable foods. These foods are typically high in sugar, fat, or both, but the specific elements that underlie their increased consumption are still not clearly understood. Combinations of high fat and high sugar may particularly intensify overeating. Animal models allow investigation of the consumption of these foods separately from many of the environmental and psychological influences that impact eating in humans. The current study compared intakes of sucrose, fat, and a sucrose-fat combination when offered to male and female rats intermittently (2 h, three times per week for five weeks) during the vulnerable period of adolescence. Consumption of these foods, and of freely available normally nutritive lab chow was measured. Animals given the sucrose-fat food consumed significantly more than all other groups and were the only group to show significant increases in consumption during the first week. Moreover, the sucrose-fat group consumed significantly less chow than any other group. In comparison with previous reports in adult rats, adolescent rats appeared to heighten consumption of the sucrose-fat food more markedly and to show less pronounced sex differences. These data highlight the unique vulnerability and increased biological susceptibility of adolescent rats to sweet-fat food rewards and demonstrate the need to similarly investigate the preference for and the consumption of different hyperpalatable foods in human adolescents.