Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science


Molecular Cellular and Systemic Physiology

First Advisor

Strader, April


As the obesity epidemic continues to grow, attention has been turned towards the abundance of processed foods and beverages in the Western diet. Controversy has particularly surrounded high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which is a commonly used sweetener in these products. Our study is designed to not only investigate the metabolic effects resulting from prolonged exposure to a highly sweetened diet, but also to determine the effects of this maternal diet on the offspring. For the study, three specially made, pelleted diets and a control were administered to weight matched groups of female Long Evans rats: Control "Chow" AIN-G93, Group (2) AIN-G93 + 10% HFCS, Group (3) AIN-G93 + 20% HFCS, and Group (4) 20% sucrose. All of the diets were isocaloric and differed only in the amount of added sweetener. At the end of the initial study, a strong phenotypic difference was not determined among the dams; however, postnatal body weights were increased in the pups born to dams raised on sweetened diets groups compared to the Chow-fed dams. Even further, following exposure to a LF or HF diet, the progeny showed altered sensitivity to the obesogenic effects of the diet as was seen in body weights and caloric intake. Glucose homeostasis, plasma triglyceride levels, and liver weights also appeared to be influenced by the maternal and post-weaning diets. To further examine this maternal diet effect, the study was repeated, and experiments were performed while the pups were in utero and also during lactation. Metabolic parameters measured during pregnancy showed a trend towards higher triglycerides in the HFCS dams compared to Chow. Tests during lactation aimed to determine whether the pups were hyperphagic, but showed no significance. Overall, these studies suggest that sweetener components such as sucrose or HFCS used in beverages and processed foods may potentially contribute to the development to the obesity and the metabolic syndrome in offspring. Additionally, HFCS may amplify this effect even further.




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