A Novel Automated System Yields Reproducible Temporal Feeding Patterns in Laboratory Rodents. Academic Article uri icon


  • 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 (31-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): 97.41.5% accurate compared with manual measurement; R2=0.86; tdF/I (HFD): 99.01.4% accurate; R2=0.86]. Meal-feeding produced 3 nocturnal meals of equal size and duration in StD-fed rats (tdF/I: 97.40.9% 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.

published proceedings

  • J Nutr

altmetric score

  • 0.75

author list (cited authors)

  • Tilston, T. W., Brown, R. D., Wateridge, M. J., Arms-Williams, B., Walker, J. J., Sun, Y., & Wells, T.

citation count

  • 3

complete list of authors

  • Tilston, Thomas W||Brown, Richard D||Wateridge, Matthew J||Arms-Williams, Bradley||Walker, Jamie J||Sun, Yuxiang||Wells, Timothy

publication date

  • September 2019