Chronic social stress in a changing dietary environment

Kellie L.K. Tamashiro, Maria A. Hegeman, Randall R. Sakai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The human population has slowly transformed from the "hunter-gatherer" period to the current environment of high energy consumption, minimal physical activity and a lifestyle that includes stress and anxiety. Modeling the current environment in the laboratory can help to elucidate mechanisms responsible for the development of obesity, diabetes and, ultimately, the metabolic syndrome. Using the visible burrow system (VBS) model of social stress we have begun to examine the short- and long-term consequences of chronic social stress on energy homeostasis. We demonstrated that social stress has significant effects on body weight and body composition such that subordinate rats progressively develop characteristics of obesity and have additionally determined that this occurs, in part, through changes in food intake amount and behavior. Changes in body weight and body composition are similar or greater when animals are maintained on a high fat diet. These data suggest that consumption of a high-fat diet during social stress in the VBS, while it does not appear to affect development of a social hierarchy, enhances the effect that chronic stress has on body composition and may be more representative of what happens in humans in modern society where the typical diet has progressively moved toward higher calorie, high-fat foods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)536-542
Number of pages7
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 30 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Body composition
  • Body weight
  • High fat diet
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Obesity
  • Social stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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