Sprague dawley rats gaining weight on a high energy diet exhibit damage to taste tissue even after return to a healthy diet

Fiona Harnischfeger, Flynn O’connell, Michael Weiss, Brandon Axelrod, Andras Hajnal, Krzysztof Czaja, Patricia M. Di Lorenzo, Robin Dando

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Many reports detail taste dysfunction in humans and animals with obesity. For example, mice consuming an obesogenic diet for a short period have fewer taste buds than their lean littermates. Further, rats with diet-induced obesity (DIO) show blunted electrophysiological responses to taste in the brainstem. Here, we studied the effects of high energy diet (HED)-induced peripheral taste damage in rats, and whether this deficiency could be reversed by returning to a regular chow diet. Separate groups of rats consumed a standard chow diet (Chow), a HED for 10 weeks followed by a return to chow (HED/chow), or a HED for 10 weeks followed by a restricted HED that was isocaloric with consumption by the HED/chow group (HED/isocal). Fungiform taste papilla (FP) and circumvallate taste bud abundance were quantified several months after HED groups switched diets. Results showed that both HED/chow and HED/isocal rats had significantly fewer FP and lower CV taste bud abundance than control rats fed only chow. Neutrophil infiltration into taste tissues was also quantified, but did not vary with treatment on this timeline. Finally, the number of cells undergoing programmed cell death, measured with caspase-3 staining, inversely correlated with taste bud counts, suggesting taste buds may be lost to apoptosis as a potential mechanism for the taste dysfunction observed in obesity. Collectively, these data show that DIO has lasting deleterious effects on the peripheral taste system, despite a change from a HED to a healthy diet, underscoring the idea that obesity rather than diet predicts damage to the taste system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3062
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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