Supplementary Research Support for Faculty
CLAS Supplementary Research Support: Elizabeth I. M. Flandreau
Anecdotally, we know a healthy diet is important for physical and mental well-being. The Flandreau laboratory quantifies how an unhealthy diet high in sugar can impact not only the metabolic system, but also stress-related pathways in the brain. These stress-related pathways are known to be dysregulated in mental illness, as evidenced by changes in stress hormones and brain activity, providing a potentially critical link between diet and mental health.
Dr. Flandreau’s previous research analyzed the impact of high sucrose diet (HSD) compared to control (standard chow) diet on sensitivity to stress. Results showed that the HSD but not high fat diet (HFD) increased anxiety-like behavior (Eudave, BeLow, & Flandreau, 2018). We also found that mice previously fed HSD had increased concentrations of hormones related to stress. This result was surprising given that the majority of research on diet focuses on fat, highlighting the importance of further in-depth work on HSD. In addition, there were two other surprising findings: (1) ten days of HSD yielded hormonal and behavioral changes analogous to anxiety as a main effect, independent of stress exposure and (2) the hormonal effects of 10 days of HSD were observed more than 30 days following cessation of the special diet (and return to standard chow diet). Because these findings were unexpected, there is no timeline to explain when or why these changes occurred.
The present study builds on previous research by generating a timeline for the impact of HSD on hormones important for both stress and anxiety.