Psychosocial stress affects energy balance in mice: Modulation by social status

A. Moles, A. Bartolomucci, L. Garbugino, R. Conti, A. Caprioli, R. Coccurello, R. Rizzi, B. Ciani, F. R. D'Amato

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Stress has been associated to changes in eating behaviour and food preferences. Moreover, psychosocial and socio-economical challenges have been related with neuroendocrine-autonomic dysregulation followed by visceral obesity and associated risk factors for disease. In the current study, we provide a model of body weight development, food intake, energy expenditure of subordinate and dominant mice under psychosocial stress either in the presence of a standard diet or of a high palatable diet. When only standard chow was available stressed animals consumed more food in comparison to the control counterpart. Moreover, subordinate mice, at the end of the stress period were heavier in comparison to dominant animals. This last result was due to a decrease in the caloric efficiency of dominant animals in comparison to subordinates. Confirming this, the results of the experiment 2 showed that dominant mice significantly increase their energy expenditure at the end of the chronic psychosocial stress procedure in comparison to subordinate mice, as measured by indirect calorimetry. When a palatable high fat diet was available subordinate animals became heavier in comparison with both dominant and control animals. No differences in the caloric intake were found between groups. Subordinate mice ingested more calories from fat than controls, while dominant animals ingested more calories from carbohydrates. These results suggest that psychosocial stress can be a risk factor for overeating and weight gain in mice. However, social status influences the extent to which an individual keeps up with adverse environment, influencing the vulnerability toward stress related disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)623-633
Number of pages11
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2006


  • Body weight
  • Cafeteria diet
  • Energy expenditure
  • Food intake
  • Social stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Psychology(all)


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