A free-choice high-fat, high-sucrose diet induces hyperphagia, obesity, and cardiovascular dysfunction in female cycling and pregnant rats

Hijab Ahmed, Johanna L. Hannan, John W. Apolzan, Oluwatobiloba Osikoya, Spencer C. Cushen, Steven Anthony Romero, Styliani Goulopoulou

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The main objective of these studies was to characterize metabolic, body composition, and cardiovascular responses to a free-choice high-fat, high-sucrose diet in female cycling and pregnant rats. In the nonpregnant state, female Sprague-Dawley rats offered a 3-wk free-choice high-fat, high-sucrose diet had greater energy intake, adiposity, serum leptin, and triglyceride concentrations compared with rats fed with standard chow and developed glucose intolerance. In addition, choice-diet-fed rats had larger cardiac ventricular weights, smaller kidney and pancreas weights, and higher blood pressure than chow-fed rats, but they did not exhibit resistance artery endothelial dysfunction. When the free-choice diet continued throughout pregnancy, rats remained hyperphagic, hyperleptinemic, and obese. Choice pregnant rats exhibited uterine artery endothelial dysfunction and had smaller fetuses compared with chow pregnant rats. Pregnancy normalized mean arterial blood pressure and pancreas weights in choice rats. These studies are the first to provide a comprehensive evaluation of free-choice high-fat, high-sucrose diet on metabolic and cardiovascular functions in female rats, extending the previous studies in males to female cycling and pregnant rodents. Free-choice diet may provide a new model of preconceptual maternal obesity to study the role of increased energy intake, individual food components, and preexisting maternal obesity on maternal and offspring physiological responses during pregnancy and after birth.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)R472-R485
JournalAmerican journal of physiology. Regulatory, integrative and comparative physiology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2019



  • diet-induced obesity
  • energy intake
  • female
  • uterine artery
  • vascular function

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