Timing of food intake is more potent than habitual voluntary exercise to prevent diet-induced obesity in mice

Inappropriate eating habits such as eating late at night are associated with risk for abnormal weight-gain and adiposity. We previously reported that time-imposed feeding during the daytime (inactive phase) induces obesity and metabolic disorders accompanied by physical inactivity in mice. The present study compares metabolic changes induced in mice by time-imposed feeding under voluntary wheel-running (RW) and sedentary (SED) conditions to determine the effects of voluntary wheel-running activity on obesity induced in mice by feeding at inappropriate times.

Mice were individually housed in cages with or without running-wheels. We compared food consumption, core body temperature, hormonal and metabolic variables in the blood, lipid accumulation in the liver, circadian expression of clock and metabolic genes in peripheral tissues, and gains in body weight between mice allowed access to food only during the sleep phase (daytime feeding; DF) or only during the active phase (nighttime feeding; NF) under SED or RW conditions.

Only a high-fat high-sucrose diet was available to the mice throughout restricted feeding. Nocturnal activity was maintained in both NF and DF mice under RW conditions, but significantly suppressed during the latter half of the dark phase in DF mice. Nocturnal fluctuations in core body temperature were maintained in DF and NF mice under both SED and RW conditions, although DF attenuated the day–night amplitude more under SED, than RW conditions.

The degrees of DF-induced increases in body weight gain, food efficiency, adipose tissue mass, lipogenic gene expression in metabolic tissues, and hepatic lipid accumulation were essentially identical between SED and RW conditions. Daytime feeding also induced hyperinsulinemia and hyperleptinemia under both SED and RW conditions, although DF-induced hyperleptinemia was slightly attenuated by wheel-running.

The temporal expression of circadian clock genes became synchronized to feeding cycles in the liver but not in the skeletal muscle of mice under both SED and RW conditions.

Chronic voluntary exercise on running-wheels minimally affected obesity and adiposity in mice caused by daily feeding at unusual times. The timing of food intake might be more important than physical exercise for preventing metabolic disorders.

Chronobiology International: Timing of food intake is more potent than habitual voluntary exercise to prevent diet-induced obesity in mice