Epidemiological studies have shown a positive relationship between dietary fat intake and obesity. Since rats and mice show a similar relationship, they are considered an appropriate model for studying dietary obesity. The present paper describes the history of using high-fat diets to induce obesity in animals, aims to clarify the consequences of changing the amount and type of dietary fats on weight gain, body composition and adipose tissue cellularity, and explores the contribution of genetics and sex, as well as the biochemical basis and the roles of hormones such as leptin, insulin and ghrelin in animal models of dietary obesity. The major factors that contribute to dietary obesity – hyperphagia, energy density and post-ingestive effects of the dietary fat – are discussed. Other factors that affect dietary obesity including feeding rhythmicity, social factors and stress are highlighted. Finally, we comment on the reversibility of high-fat diet-induced obesity.
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