'American Diet' v. Atkins Diet

Oct 19, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- If people can learn anything from rats, what to eat might be one of the most useful lessons. University of South Florida Professor David Diamond, in the Departments of Psychology, Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology, and a career scientist at the Tampa VA Hospital, investigated the effects of a typical American diet, which is high in fat and sugar, compared to an Atkins-type diet, which is high in animal and vegetable fat but low in sugar, on the physiology and behavior of rats. Lesson learned: choosing between the so-called American diet and the Atkins diet can make a difference in managing weight and one’s response to stress. They found that rats fed the American diet exhibited greater anxiety and gained more weight than rats which were fed either the Atkins diet or a control diet, which was low in both fat and sugar.

Diamond presented his findings to colleagues at the Annual Society for Neuroscience conference in Chicago, Ill., Oct. 17. This work was supported by Veterans Affairs Merit Review Funding. Diamond has also done groundbreaking work on the affects of stress, and trauma in relation to poverty and addiction, as well as emotion, stress and memory and PTSD ().

The behavioral testing revealed for the first time that high and low carb diets differentially affected the expression of anxiety-related behaviors. Rats fed the high carb diet exhibited stronger evidence of fear memories in response to a frightening experience. Rats fed the low carb diet had the opposite effect - they appeared less fearful on tests of memory and anxiety than the rats fed the American diet.

The research team led by Diamond with graduate student Shyam Seetharaman studied groups of rats under different diet conditions. After consuming an American, Atkins, or control diet for two weeks, the rats were placed in a chamber where they were given a mild electric shock. Five weeks later, the groups were given behavioral tests aimed at measuring fear memory and anxiety. They found that rats in the American diet group were more fearful when re-exposed to the chamber where they were shocked. These animals also demonstrated other evidence of anxiety, such as greater startle responses and fear of a novel place. The Atkins diet , by contrast, exhibited no signs of anxiety when they were in the novel environment. The researchers also found that the American diet group gained significantly more weight than the groups fed the Atkins and control diets.

According to Diamond, “These findings are consistent with research demonstrating that excessive sugar, eaten in conjunction with fat, is a primary factor that contributes to obesity. More importantly, it is known that the Atkins (low carb) diet is an effective strategy for reducing weight, and our findings suggest that it may also reduce anxiety and potentially enhance cognitive performance under stress.”

This research has implications for how people can respond more effectively to stress. The work of these researchers indicates that the combination of high fat and sugar diets, as is found in typical American foods such as donuts, cheeseburgers and french fries, not only contributes to obesity, but may also contribute to the development of anxiety disorders.

Provided by University of South Florida

Explore further: Research team treats brain injuries in mice using bone marrow stem cells and antioxidants

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Improving your diet may not help you beat stress

Jul 06, 2006

Research published online today in the Journal of Proteome Research, shows how improving the diet of rats placed in stressful environments did not normalise their metabolic profile, an indicator of their health.

Age at puberty linked to mother's prenatal diet

Jun 16, 2008

A high-fat diet during pregnancy and nursing may lead to the child having an early onset of puberty and subsequent adulthood obesity, according to a new animal study. The results were presented Monday, June 16, at The Endocrine ...

Fructose sets table for weight gain without warning

Oct 16, 2008

Eating too much fructose can induce leptin resistance, a condition that can easily lead to becoming overweight when combined with a high-fat, high-calorie diet, according to a new study with rats.

Pregnant mothers' diet linked to baby's obesity

Apr 04, 2008

Pregnant and lactating rats fed on a diet of hydrogenated fat during pregnancy and lactation had babies who were fatter than rats fed a normal diet, according to research published in Lipids in Health and Disease. The un ...

Simple blood test predicts obesity

Oct 31, 2008

According to new research from the Monell Center, the degree of change in blood triglyceride levels following a fatty meal may indicate susceptibility to diet-induced obesity. The findings open doors to new methods of identifying ...

Recommended for you

Organovo has 3D-printed liver tissue for drug testing

19 hours ago

(Medical Xpress)—The commercial release of 3D printed liver tissue was announced earlier this week. Organovo is the company behind the release. The product is intended for use for preclinical drug discovery ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Skepticus
not rated yet Oct 20, 2009
This research conculsions must be condemned at all costs...how the medicos are going to meet their payments on their yatchs, mansions and expensive autos if all people wake up ,informed and healthy???

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.