New paper: Cafeteria diet as model to study excessive junk food consumption

Junk food is both appetizing and consists of high-energy nutrients, which is why the consumption of junk food plays a central role in weight gain, obesity and the associated health risks.  To study the effects of junk food on different on different aspects of health, researchers have to use standardized diets, very often in animal models. The Cafeteria (CAF) diet model for animal experiments consists of the same tasty but unhealthy food products that people eat (e.g. hot dogs and muffins), and considers variety, novelty and secondary food features, such as smell and texture. This model, therefore, mimics human eating patterns better than other models.

Even though the features of the CAF model are promising , researchers still don’t completely agree about the exact ingredients and food products that should be included in the diet, as well as how the food should be administered (Barrett et al., 2016; Nilsson et al., 2012). The result is that each research laboratory uses a different CAF protocol. Although cultural and regional differences are relevant for translational approaches, a gold standard of the basic ingredients is necessary for inter-laboratory comparisons.

In our recently published review article, we systematically reviewed studies that have used a CAF diet in behavioral experiments and proposed a standardized protocol for CAF models based on the most used food products and ways of administration. In addition, we summarized the behavioral effects found to be caused by consuming CAF diet.

In the proposed diet, the animal can choose what to eat from different ingredients. The diet  combines different textures, nutrients and tastes, including salty and sweet products, and it is rotated and varied. Our summary of the behavioral effects of CAF diet showed that it alters meal patterns, reduces the hedonic value of other rewards, and tends to reduce stress and spatial memory. So far, no clear effects of CAF diet were found on locomotor activity, impulsivity, coping and social behavior.

[summary by Eelke]

Lalanza JF, Snoeren EMS. The Cafeteria Diet: a standardized protocol and its effects on behavior. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews. 2020. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2020.11.003

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created: 18.01.2021 10:35