'With the standard feed, 7.5 per cent of the calories come from fat. That's a pretty low-fat diet, much like humans eating nothing but muesli,' says Dr Murray. 'The high-fat diet, in which 55 per cent of the calories came from fat, sounds high but it's actually not extraordinarily high by human standards. A junk food diet would come close to that.
'Some high-fat, low-carb diets for weight loss can even have fat contents as high as 60 per cent. However, it's not clear how many direct conclusions can be drawn from our work for these diets, as the high-fat diet we used was not particularly low in carbs,' he adds.
On the fifth day of the high-fat diet (the first day back on the treadmill), the rats were already running 30 per cent less far than those remaining on the low-fat diet. By the ninth day, the last of the experiment, they were running 50 per cent less far.
The rats on the high-fat diet were also making mistakes sooner in the maze task, suggesting that their cognitive abilities were also being affected by their diet. The number of correct decisions before making a mistake dropped from over six to an average of 5 to 5.5.
The researchers also investigated what metabolic changes the high-fat diet was inducing in the rats. They found increased levels of a specific protein called the 'uncoupling protein' in the muscle and heart cells of rats on the high-fat diet. This protein 'uncouples' the process of burning food stuffs for energy in the cells, reducing the efficiency of the heart and muscles. This
|Contact: Genevieve Maul|
University of Cambridge