"Liking" and "wanting" of sweet and oily food stimuli as affected by high-fat diet-induced obesity, weight loss, leptin, and genetic predisposition

Andrew C. Shin, R. Leigh Townsend, Laurel M. Patterson, Hans Rudolf Berthoud

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

92 Scopus citations


Cross-sectional studies in both humans and animals have demonstrated associations between obesity and altered reward functions at the behavioral and neural level, but it is unclear whether these alterations are cause or consequence of the obese state. Reward behaviors were quantified in male, outbred Sprague-Dawley (SD) and selected line obesity-prone (OP) and obesity-resistant (OR) rats after induction of obesity by high-fat diet feeding and after subsequent loss of excess body weight by chronic calorie restriction. As measured by the brief access lick and taste-reactivity paradigms, both obese SD and OP rats "liked" low concentrations of sucrose and corn oil less, but "liked" the highest concentrations more, compared with lean rats, and this effect was fully reversed by weight loss in SD rats. Acute food deprivation was unable to change decreased responsiveness to low concentrations but eliminated increased responsiveness to high concentrations in obese SD rats, and leptin administration in weightreduced SD rats shifted concentration-response curves toward that seen in the obese state in the brief access lick test. "Wanting" and reinforcement learning as assessed in the incentive runway and progressive ratio lever-pressing paradigms was paradoxically decreased in both obese (compared with lean SD rats) and OP (compared with OR rats). Thus, reversible, obesity-associated, reduced "liking" and "wanting" of low-calorie foods in SD rats suggest a role for secondary effects of the obese state on reward functions, while similar differences between select lines of OP and OR rats before induction of obesity indicate a genetic component.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)R1267-R1280
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2011


  • Calorie restriction
  • Corn oil
  • Incentive runway
  • Motivation
  • Preference
  • Reward
  • Sucrose
  • Taste
  • Taste-reactivity


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