Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry

, Volume 121, Issue 1, pp 45–57 | Cite as

Individual amino acid balances in young lean and obese Zucker rats fed a cafeteria diet

  • I. Rafecas
  • M. Esteve
  • J. A. Fernández-López
  • X. Remesar
  • M. Alemany


The amino acid composition of the diet ingested by reference and cafeteria diet-fed lean and obese Zucker rats has been analyzed from day 30 to 60 after birth. Their body protein amino acid composition was measured, as well as the urinary and faecal losses incurred during the period studied. The protein actually selected by the rats fed the cafeteria diet had essentially the same amino acid composition as the reference diet. The mean protein amino acid composition of the rat showed only small changes with breed, age or diet.

Cafeteria-fed rats had a higher dietary protein digestion/absorption efficiency than reference diet-fed rats. Obese rats wasted a high proportion of dietary amino acids when given the reference diet, but not on the cafeteria diet. In all cases, the amino acids lost as such in the urine were a minimal portion of available amino acids.

In addition to breed, the rates of protein accretion are deeply influenced by diet, but even more by the age — or size — of the animals: cafeteria-fed rats grew faster, to higher body protein settings, but later protein accrual decreased considerably; this is probably due to a limitation in the ‘blueprint for growth’ which restricts net protein deposition when a certain body size is attained. Obese rats, however, kept accuring protein with high rates throughout.

Diet composition — and not protein availability or quality-induced deep changes in amino acid metabolism. Since the differences in the absolute levels of dietary protein or carbohydrate energy ingested by rats fed the reference or cafeteria diets were small, it can be assumed that high (lipid) energy elicits the changes observed in amino acid metabolism by the cafeteria diet. The effects induced in the fate of the nitrogen ingested were more related to the fractional protein energy proportion than to its absolute values. Cafeteria-fed rats tended to absorb more amino acids and preserve them more efficiently; these effects were shown even under conditions of genetic obesity.

There were deep differences in handling of dietary amino acids by dietary or genetically obese rats. The former manage to extract and accrue larger proportions of their dietary amino acids than the latter. The effects of both ‘models’ of amino acid management were largely additive, suggesting that the mechanisms underlying the development of obesity did not run in parallel to those affecting the control of amino acid utilization. Obesity may be developed in both cases despite a completely different strategy of amino acid assimilation, accrual and utilization. (Mol Cell Biochem121: 45–58, 1993)

Key words

cafeteria diet amino acid balance nitrogen gap dietary energy protein dietary energy nitrogen accrual obesity Zucker fa/fa rat 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • I. Rafecas
    • 1
  • M. Esteve
    • 1
  • J. A. Fernández-López
    • 1
  • X. Remesar
    • 1
  • M. Alemany
    • 1
  1. 1.Departament de Bioquímica i Fisiologia, Facultat de BiologiaUniversitat de BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain

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