Binge Eating in Rats Produced by Combining Dieting with Stress

Mary M. Boggiano1, Paula C. Chandler1

1 University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, Alabama
Publication Name:  Current Protocols in Neuroscience
Unit Number:  Unit 9.23A
DOI:  10.1002/0471142301.ns0923as36
Online Posting Date:  August, 2006
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This unit describes a rodent model of binge eating based on cyclic restriction, refeeding, footshock, and intermittent access to palatable food. These conditions mimic dieting, stress, and “junk” food indulgence, respectively, all common etiological and maintenance factors in human binge eating. Four groups of rats are used: one subjected to cyclic food restriction, another to acute footshock stress, another to both of these (R + S), and a control. Neither cyclic restriction nor stress alone produces binge eating, but the R + S rats, despite satiety, double their intake of palatable food in a discrete period of time (i.e., binge) when stressed. This protocol recapitulates critical properties of human binge eating, namely preference for palatable food, dieting‐ and stress‐induced vulnerability to binging, and eating for reward versus metabolic need. This protocol permits study of the psychobiological underpinnings of binge eating and possibly also of addiction, impulsivity, and depression, which are co‐morbid with binge eating.

Keywords: eating disorders; hyperphagia; bulimia; palatable food; animal model; food addiction; ingestive behavior

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Table of Contents

  • Commentary
  • Literature Cited
  • Figures
  • Tables
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Basic Protocol 1:

  • Female Sprague‐Dawley rats, 54 to 90 days old (minimum of 24; Harlan)
  • Solid pellets of chow (Purina, Harlan Teklad, or equivalent)
  • Double Stuf Oreo cookies (traditional chocolate wafer and vanilla cream center; Kraft Foods)
  • Chlorhexiderm antiseptic solution (Fisher Scientific) in spray bottle
  • Polycarbonate cages, medium (22 × 12.5 × 8 in.; Lab Products or Allentown Caging Equipment) with wire bar lids, filter cage covers, and woodchip bedding
  • Housing room (isolated from rats in other experiments), temperature controlled (22° to 23°C) with a 12‐hr light/dark cycle
  • Water bottles with rubber stoppers (standard for rats)
  • Top‐loading balance, 0 to 600 g capacity with ± 0.1 g accuracy
  • Identification tags for cages
  • Large cart
  • Footshock apparatus (Habitest System; Coulbourn Instruments; Fig. ) with closed alleys and programmable 0.6 mA delivery over 3 sec, in a separate room from rat housing
  • Lamp with red bulb, optional (for taking readings in the dark; see )
  • Computer and spreadsheet software (e.g., Excel)
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Literature Cited

   American Psychiatric Association. 1994. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th ed. American Psychiatric Association, Washington, D.C.
   Badiani, A., Jakob, A., Rodaros, D., and Stewart, J. 1996. Sensitization of stress‐induced feeding in rats repeatedly exposed to brief restraint: The role of corticosterone. Brain Res. 710:35‐44.
   Berridge, K. 2004. Motivation concepts in behavioral neuroscience. Physiol. Behav. 81:179‐209.
   Boggiano, M.M., Chandler, P.C., Viana, J.B., Oswald, K.D., Maldonado, C.R., and Wauford, P.K. 2005. Combined dieting and stress evoke exaggerated responses to opioids in binge‐eating rats. Behav. Neurosci. 119:1207‐1214.
   Geary, N. 2003. A new animal model of binge eating. Int. J. Eat. Disord. 34:198‐199.
   Greeno, C.G. and Wing, R.R. 1994. Stress‐induced eating. Psychol. Bull. 115:444‐464.
   Griffiths, J., Shanks, N., and Anisman, H. 1992. Strain‐specific alterations in consumption of a palatable diet following repeated stress or exposure. Pharmacol. Biochem. Behav. 42:219‐227.
   Hagan, M.M., Wauford, P.K., Chandler, P.C., Jarrett, L.A., Rybak, R.J., and Blackburn, K. 2002. A new animal model of binge‐eating: Key synergistic role of past caloric restriction and stress. Physiol. Behav. 77:45‐54.
   Hagan, M.M., Chandler, P.C., Wauford, P.K., Rybak, R.J., and Oswald, K.D. 2003. The role of palatable food and hunger as trigger factors in an animal model of stress induced binge‐eating. Int. J. Eat. Disord. 34:183‐197.
   Hancock, S.D., Menard, J.L., and Olmstead, M.C. 2005. Variations in maternal care influence vulnerability to stress‐induced binge eating in female rats. Physiol. Behav. 85:430‐439.
   Penke, Z., Felszeghy, K., Fernette, B., Sage, D., Nyakas, C., and Burlet, A. 2001. Postnatal maternal deprivation produces long‐lasting modifications of the stress response, feeding and stress‐related behaviour in the rat. Eur. J. Neurosci. 14:747‐755.
   Placidi, R.J., Chandler, P.C., Oswald, K.D., Maldonado, C., Wauford, P.K., and Boggiano, M.M. 2004. Stress and hunger alter the anorectic efficacy of fluoxetine on the binge‐eating of rats with a history of caloric restriction. Int. J. Eat. Disord. 36:328‐341.
   Zylan, K.D. and Brown, S.D. 1996. Effect of stress and food variety on food intake in male and female rats. Physiol. Behav. 59:165‐169.
Key References
   Hagan et al., 2002, 2003. See above.
  The first published reports using the model described in this unit.
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