Binge eating has been associated with stress responses. Data in rats suggest that activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is suppressed by consumption of a high sucrose diet, and is increased with exposure to a high fat diet. Additionally, the choice to consume a highly palatable food following exposure to a stressor results in reduced corticosterone levels. To test the effects of intermittent access to a high sugar/high fat food on stress hormone levels, rats were given either unrestricted (UR) access to a sucrose-vegetable shortening mixture (SVS) or 2 hour SVS access 7 days (7D) or 3 days (3D) per week for 4 weeks. Rats on the UR and 3D schedules consumed significantly more calories per day than did controls with no access to SVS, and the 7D and 3D rats consumed as many SVS calories in the 2 hour access period as did the UR rats with 24 hour access to SVS. After 4 weeks of access to SVS (UR, 7D, and 3D), rats were briefly restrained. Control and UR rats had elevated corticosterone during and following restraint, whereas there were no differences in corticosterone levels of 7D and 3D rats in response to restraint, as compared to baseline. Post-restraint consumption of chow was significantly decreased in all groups, and consumption of SVS was reduced in the UR, but not the 7D and 3D rats. These data demonstrate that intermittent access to SVS dampens the corticosterone response to restraint stress and that stressful events do not induce bingeing in non-bingeing animals with access to a high sucrose/high fat food.
- Binge eating
- Eating disorders