A study has found that a high-fat diet can be bad for your health, but what is even worse is a snack-based cafeteria-style diet of highly palatable, energy-dense foods.
Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that rats that ate snack foods commonly consumed by children and adults, ate more, gained more weight, had more tissue inflammation and were intolerant to glucose and insulin (warning signs of diabetes) than rats whose diets were high fat from lard.
The study showed that the "cafeteria diet" (an experimental system for studying obesity, also known as CAF, that mimics buffet-style access to junk food such as cookies, chips and processed meats) contributed more to diet-induced obesity than common high-fat diets typically used in rodent studies.
The results suggest that researchers can get more accurate information from animal models that eat a diet that may resemble what humans consume.
Use of the CAF model also may be useful for identifying novel options for preventative interventions or therapeutics to treat obesity in humans, the study noted.
"Obesity has reached epidemic levels in the United States," Liza Makowski, Ph.D., assistant professor of nutrition at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and the study's senior author, said.
"These findings provide us with a better animal model to help explore what factors are contributing most to this dangerous trend, and what strategies for prevention and treatment of obesity will be most successful," she said.
The study has been published in the June 2011 issue of the journal Obesity.