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Unlimited sucrose consumption during adolescence generates a depressive-like phenotype in adulthood

Neuropsychopharmacologyvolume 43pages26272635 (2018) | Download Citation


Depression is highly prevalent worldwide, but its etiology is not fully understood. An overlooked possible contributor to the epidemic of depression is feeding styles, particularly at early age when the brain is intensely changing. We have previously reported that unlimited sucrose consumption during adolescence leads to enduring changes in brain reward function. Here, we tested the hypothesis that sucrose consumption during adolescence would lead to a ‘depressive-like’ phenotype. Adolescent male rats were given unlimited access to 5% sucrose in their home cages from postnatal day 30 to postnatal day 46 and their emotional behavior was subsequently examined at adulthood. Sucrose consumption during adolescence caused anhedonia, decreased motivation for saccharin, increased immobility in the forced swim test and exacerbated anxiety-like behavior. Additionally, sucrose consumption during adolescence decreased cell proliferation in the hippocampus in adulthood. Chronic treatment with imipramine (10 mg/kg) normalized behavior and restored cell proliferation in the hippocampus of adult rats with a history of sucrose consumption during adolescence. A similar sucrose consumption starting at adulthood only increases immobility in the forced swim test, suggesting that sucrose intake affects also adults’ behavior but to a lesser degree. Overall, our findings reveal an unsuspected protracted effect of sucrose consumption on behavior and suggest that unlimited sucrose consumption during critical periods of brain development may play an important role in the etiology of reward-related disorders such as depression.

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The authors would like to thank Stephane Lelgouach, Anne Fayoux, Yoan Salafranque for taking care of the animals, Marion Rincel for social behavior scoring, and Marie Hélène Bruyères, Elisabeth Drillon and Marie-Laure Rousseau for administrative help.


This research and ABG were supported by a grant to M.C. from Mission Interministérielle de la Lutte contre les Drogues et la Toxicomanie (MILDT # 0901, Paris France). M.D. was supported by the Centre de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS). L.F.V. was supported by Fyssen Foundation and is currently supported by NIDA-IRP. C.A. was supported by Fonds de recherche du Québec—Santé (FRQS).

Author information

Author notes

    • Aliou B. Gueye

    Present address: Département de pharmacologie et physiologie, Faculté de Médecine, Université de Montréal, Montréal, Canada

    • Leandro F. Vendruscolo

    Present address: Neurobiology of Addiction Section, NIDA-IRP, NIH, Baltimore, Md, USA

  1. Aliou B.Gueye and Leandro F.Vendruscolo contributed equally to this work. Muriel Darnaudéry and Martine Cador share senior authorship.


  1. Université Bordeaux, INCIA, UMR 5287, Bordeaux, F-33000, France

    • Aliou B. Gueye
    • , Leandro F. Vendruscolo
    • , Catherine Le Moine
    •  & Martine Cador
  2. CNRS, INCIA, UMR 5287, Bordeaux, F-33000, France

    • Aliou B. Gueye
    • , Leandro F. Vendruscolo
    • , Catherine Le Moine
    •  & Martine Cador
  3. INRA, Lab. Nutrition et Neurobiologie Intégrée, UMR1286, Bordeaux, France

    • Camila de Ávila
    •  & Muriel Darnaudéry
  4. Lab. Nutrition et Neurobiologie Intégrée, UMR1286, Université de Bordeaux, Bordeaux, France

    • Camila de Ávila
    •  & Muriel Darnaudéry
  5. Faculté de Médecine, Département de Psychiatrie et de Neurosciences, Centre de recherche de l’Institut universitaire de cardiologie et de pneumologie de Québec, Université Laval, Québec, QC, G1V 0A6, Canada

    • Camila de Ávila


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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Correspondence to Martine Cador.

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