A new animal model of binge eating: Key synergistic role of past caloric restriction and stress

Academic Article


  • Dieting and stress are important in the etiology and maintenance of eating disorders, and dieting strongly predicts stress-induced overeating in humans. We hypothesized that caloric restriction and stress interact in a unique manner to promote binge eating. To test this hypothesis, a group of young female rats were cycled through a restriction period (4 days of 66% of control food intake) followed by 6 days of free feeding prior to being stressed by acute foot shock. After three of these cycles, the food intake of rats exposed only to restriction (R), or only to stress (S), did not differ from controls. However, R+S rats that were restricted and refed, despite normal body weight and food intake after free feeding, engaged in a powerful bout of hyperphagia when stressed (Experiment 1). The R+S effect was replicated in an older group of rats (Experiment 2). The hyperphagia was characteristically binge-like, it constituted a 40% selective increase in highly palatable (HP) food (P<.001) over a discrete period of time (within 24 h post-stress), and reflected feeding for reward (higher HP:chow ratio) over metabolic need as occurred after restriction (higher chow:HP ratio). Subsequent experiments revealed that binge eating did not occur if only chow was available (Experiment 3) or if restriction-refeeding (R-R) did not proximally precede stress (Experiment 4). Experiment 5 revealed that a history of R-R cycles followed by only one stress episode was sufficient to increase intake to 53% above controls as early as 2 h after stress (P<.001). This animal model of binge eating should facilitate investigations into the neurochemical changes induced by dieting and environmental stress to produce disordered eating and provide a preclinical tool to test preventive strategies and treatments more relevant to bulimia nervosa, multiple cases of binge eating disorder (BED) and binge-purge type anorexia nervosa. © 2002 Elsevier Science Inc. All rights reserved.
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    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Hagan MM; Wauford PK; Chandler PC; Jarrett LA; Rybak RJ; Blackburn K
  • Start Page

  • 45
  • End Page

  • 54
  • Volume

  • 77
  • Issue

  • 1