A Novel Automated System Yields Reproducible Temporal Feeding Patterns in Laboratory Rodents
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BACKGROUND: The impact of temporal feeding patterns remains a major unanswered question in nutritional science. Progress has been hampered by the absence of a reliable method to impose temporal feeding in laboratory rodents, without the confounding influence of food-hoarding behavior. OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to develop and validate a reliable method for supplying crushed diets to laboratory rodents in consistent, relevant feeding patterns for prolonged periods. METHODS: We programmed our experimental feeding station to deliver a standard diet [StD; Atwater Fuel Energy (AFE) 13.9% fat] or high-fat diet (HFD; AFE 45% fat) during nocturnal grazing [providing 1/24th of the total daily food intake (tdF/I) of ad libitum-fed controls every 30 min] and meal-fed (3 × 1-h periods of ad libitum feeding) patterns in male rats (Sprague-Dawley: 4 wk old, 72-119 g) and mice [C57/Bl6J wild-type (WT): 6 mo old, 29-37 g], and ghrelin-null littermates (Ghr-/-; 27-34 g). RESULTS: Grazing yielded accurate, consistent feeding events in rats, with an approximately linear rise in nocturnal cumulative food intake [tdF/I (StD): 97.4 ± 1.5% accurate compared with manual measurement; R2 = 0.86; tdF/I (HFD): 99.0 ± 1.4% accurate; R2 = 0.86]. Meal-feeding produced 3 nocturnal meals of equal size and duration in StD-fed rats (tdF/I: 97.4 ± 0.9% accurate; R2 = 0.90), whereas the second meal size increased progressively in HFD-fed rats (44% higher on day 35 than on day 14; P < 0.01). Importantly, cumulative food intake in grazing and meal-fed rats was identical. Similar results were obtained in WT mice except that less restricted grazing induced hyperphagia (compared with meal-fed WT mice; P < 0.05 from day 1). This difference was abolished in Ghr-/- mice, with meal initiation delayed and meal duration enhanced. Neither pattern elevated corticosterone secretion in rats, but meal-feeding aligned ultradian pulses. CONCLUSIONS: We have established a consistent, measurable, researcher-defined, stress-free method for imposing temporal feeding patterns in rats and mice. This approach will facilitate progress in understanding the physiologic impact of feeding patterns.
author list (cited authors)
Tilston, T. W., Brown, R. D., Wateridge, M. J., Arms-Williams, B., Walker, J. J., Sun, Y., & Wells, T.