Stress increases risk for psychopathology, and diet may moderate the impact of stress on mental health. A “Western” diet has been linked to psychopathology in humans; animal studies also show that diet can influence negative valence behavior in the presence or absence of stress, but findings are inconsistent. Contradictions in existing studies may result from differences in macronutrient content of diets and presence of metabolic syndrome. The present study exposed mice to 10 days of high fat or high sucrose diet concurrent with social defeat stress exposure and examined negative valence behavior at acute (<five days) and long-term (>30 days) time points after stress/diet exposure. Predictably, stress increased negative valence behavior in the social interaction, open field, elevated zero maze, and tail suspension tests at the acute time point. While most stress-induced behaviors normalized after the 30-day recovery period, social avoidance was still highly significant for stress-exposed mice, supporting the hypothesis that avoidance of a trauma-related cue persists beyond non-specific anxiety-like behaviors. Supporting the hypothesis that an unhealthy diet contributes to psychopathology, non-stressed mice fed high fat or high sucrose diets spent less time exploring the center of the open field. This effect was no longer present after a 30-day recovery. Intriguingly, mice previously fed either high fat or high sucrose diets exhibited increased rearing behavior in the elevated zero maze 30 days post stress and diet exposure. This finding could be evidence that short-term diet administration can initiate a long-term increase in risk-assessment behavior.
Eudave, D. M., BeLow, M. N., & Flandreau, E. I. (2018). Effects of high fat or high sucrose diet on behavioral-response to social defeat stress in mice. Neurobiology of Stress, 9, 1–8. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ynstr.2018.05.005