Meal patterns in male rats during and after intermittent nicotine administration. Academic Article uri icon


  • Continuous administration of nicotine (NIC) reduces food intake (FI) and body weight (BW), whereas rebound eating and BW gain occur after NIC cessation. However, generalizations derived from prior studies on meal patterns in rats using continuous 24-h NIC administration are limited, because human smokers use NIC intermittently during their active period. In the present study, computerized meal pattern analyses (MPA) were conducted for adult male rats treated for 14 days with either saline or 2 or 4 mg/kg/day of NIC spread over five equal amounts during the dark phase. MPA analyses continued for 14 days after cessation of NIC. Only the 4 mg/kg/day NIC dose caused consistent changes in meal patterns and only that dose is reported herein. Dark period FI was reduced, whereas light period FI was unchanged in the NIC-treated group; thus, there was no rebound eating during the 12-h nontreatment phase. MPA analyses revealed the FI reduction on Day 1 of NIC administration was caused by a persistent decrease in dark phase meal size. On Day 5 of NIC, the rats compensated by significantly increasing the number of meals they took, which tended to normalize dark phase FI. Congruently, dark phase intermeal interval was decreased. Importantly, these changes in meal patterns persisted for 2 weeks after termination of NIC. Upon NIC cessation, the NIC group had a transient elevated FI. The NIC-treated group's BW was significantly suppressed by Day 6 of NIC and after stoppage these rats slowly, but incompletely, regained lost BW over the next 14 days. These results document that administration of NIC during the dark phase resulted in a reorganization of the microstructure of FI in male rats and that long-lasting alterations in the microstructure of FI (e.g., meal size and meal number) were noted for up to 2 weeks after cessation of NIC. These results differ from studies in which NIC was given continuously 24-h/day and indicate that dark phase NIC administration in rats may represent an appropriate model to study the impact of NIC on meal patterns.

published proceedings

  • Pharmacol Biochem Behav

author list (cited authors)

  • Bellinger, L., Cepeda-Benito, A., & Wellman, P. J.

citation count

  • 44

complete list of authors

  • Bellinger, Larry||Cepeda-Benito, Antonio||Wellman, Paul J

publication date

  • January 2003