Very Low-Carbohydrate versus Isocaloric High-Carbohydrate Diet in Dietary Obese Rats


Department of Health and Nutrition Sciences, Brooklyn College of C.U.N.Y., 2900 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11210. E-mail:


Objective: The effects of a very low-carbohydrate (VLC), high-fat (HF) dietary regimen on metabolic syndrome were compared with those of an isocaloric high-carbohydrate (HC), low-fat (LF) regimen in dietary obese rats.

Research Methods and Procedures: Male Sprague-Dawley rats, made obese by 8 weeks ad libitum consumption of an HF diet, developed features of the metabolic syndrome vs. lean control (C) rats, including greater visceral, subcutaneous, and hepatic fat masses, elevated plasma cholesterol levels, impaired glucose tolerance, and fasting and post-load insulin resistance. Half of the obese rats (VLC) were then fed a popular VLC-HF diet (Weeks 9 and 10 at 5% and Weeks 11 to 14 at 15% carbohydrate), and one-half (HC) were pair-fed an HC-LF diet (Weeks 9 to 14 at 60% carbohydrate).

Results: Energy intakes of pair-fed VLC and HC rats were less than C rats throughout Weeks 9 to 14. Compared with HC rats, VLC rats exhibited impaired insulin and glycemic responses to an intraperitoneal glucose load at Week 10 and lower plasma triacylglycerol levels but retarded loss of hepatic, retroperitoneal, and total body fat at Week 14. VLC, HC, and C rats no longer differed in body weight, plasma cholesterol, glucose tolerance, or fasting insulin resistance at Week 14. Progressive decreases in fasting insulin resistance in obese groups paralleled concomitant reductions in hepatic, retroperitoneal, and total body fat.

Discussion: When energy intake was matched, the VLC-HF diet provided no advantage in weight loss or in improving those components of the metabolic syndrome induced by dietary obesity and may delay loss of hepatic and visceral fat as compared with an HC-LF diet.