Monounsaturated Fatty Acids Prevent the Aversive Effects of Obesity on Locomotion, Brain Activity, and Sleep Behavior

  1. Anita M. Hennige1
  1. 1Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Endocrinology, Diabetology, and Vascular Disease, University of Tuebingen, Tuebingen, Germany
  2. 2MEG Center, University of Tuebingen, Tuebingen, Germany
  3. 3German Research Center for Food Chemistry, Freising, Germany
  4. 4Department of Neuroendocrinology, University of Luebeck, Luebeck, Germany
  5. 5Section on Experimental Radiology, Department of Diagnostic and Interventional Radiology, University of Tuebingen, Tuebingen, Germany
  6. 6Department of Nutritional and Physiological Chemistry, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria
  7. 7Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, Arkansas
  8. 8Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Clinical Chemistry, University of Tuebingen, Tuebingen, Germany
  1. Corresponding author: Hans-Ulrich Häring, hans-ulrich.haering{at}


Fat and physical inactivity are the most evident factors in the pathogenesis of obesity, and fat quality seems to play a crucial role for measures of glucose homeostasis. However, the impact of dietary fat quality on brain function, behavior, and sleep is basically unknown. In this study, mice were fed a diet supplemented with either monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) or saturated fatty acids (SFAs) and their impact on glucose homeostasis, locomotion, brain activity, and sleep behavior was evaluated. MUFAs and SFAs led to a significant increase in fat mass but only feeding of SFAs was accompanied by glucose intolerance in mice. Radiotelemetry revealed a significant decrease in cortical activity in SFA-mice whereas MUFAs even improved activity. SFAs decreased wakefulness and increased non–rapid eye movement sleep. An intracerebroventricular application of insulin promoted locomotor activity in MUFA-fed mice, whereas SFA-mice were resistant. In humans, SFA-enriched diet led to a decrease in hippocampal and cortical activity determined by functional magnetic resonance imaging techniques. Together, dietary intake of MUFAs promoted insulin action in the brain with its beneficial effects for cortical activity, locomotion, and sleep, whereas a comparable intake of SFAs acted as a negative modulator of brain activity in mice and humans.


  • Received November 2, 2011.
  • Accepted February 23, 2012.

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