Diets limiting in an essential amino acid have long been known to suppress food intake. The purpose of this study was to examine the microstructure of feeding behavior of rats within the very first meal of an imbalanced diet. Rats were preconditioned for 12 days on a Baseline diet and were then given a test diet with either a corrected amino acid profile or a diet imbalanced with respect to the essential amino acid threonine. Overall, first-meal intake and first-meal duration were robustly and significantly reduced by the Imbalanced diet but not altered by the Corrected diet. The Corrected diet caused an increase in the number of feeding bouts during the first meal. The Imbalanced diet increased the duration of pauses during the first meal. Most rats in the Imbalanced group stopped eating after just 15 min of exposure to the diet, but those still eating after this time tended to have a lower rate of eating compared to those eating the Corrected diet. On the basis of these results, we conclude that changes in microstructure and meal duration contribute to the reduction in food intake upon exposure to amino-acid-deficient diets. © 2004 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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