• rat;
  • weaning;
  • independent ingestion;
  • suckling;
  • high-fat diet


The present study examined the effects of dietary manipulation on the age of onset of weaning in rat pups. In Experiment 1, female rats were placed on a standard chow (SC) or high-fat (HF) diet 1 week following mating. Pups were weighed daily from birth to Day 12, then animals were placed into specialized cages for separate recording of food intake of pups and dams. Pups were offered the same diet as their dam, and food intake and body weight were determined twice daily until Day 25. The results demonstrated that pups reared by dams fed the HF diet initiated independent ingestion on Day 16, approximately 24 hr before pups reared by dams fed the SC diet. There were no differences in body weight in pups across the two diets. While few differences were noted across diets in pups' or dams' behavior, HF pups appeared to demonstrate a delay in the establishment of circadian patterns of food intake. In Experiment 2, all dams were maintained on an SC diet until the day after parturition. At that time, dams and litters were placed into specialized cages and divided into four groups: HF/HF, HF/SC, SC/SC, and SC/HF (dam's diet/pup's diet, respectively). The results demonstrated that dams given the HF diet had pups that initiated food intake approximately 2 days before the pups of dams given the SC diet. In addition, pups offered the HF diet, independent of the dam's diet, initiated food intake approximately 0.8 days prior to pups offered the SC diet. Further, by Day 12, HF dams had pups that were heavier than SC dams. The results suggest that the onset of weaning in rats is affected by maternal diet and the weaning diet available to the pup. © 2004 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Dev Psychobiol 45:72-82, 2004.