Over the last few decades, polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA), especially n-6 PUFA, and monounsaturated fatty acid content in 'Western diets' has increased manyfold. Such a dietary shift also parallels rising sedentary behavior and diabetes in the Western world. We queried if a shift in dietary fats could be linked to physical inactivity and insulin insensitivity in mice.

Eight-week old female C57/Bl6 mice were fed either high-fat (HF) diets [40% energy corn oil (CO) or isocaloric olive oil (OO) diets] or chow (n=10/group) for 6 weeks, followed by estimation of spontaneous locomotor activity, body composition and in vivo metabolic outcomes.

Although lean mass and resting energy expenditure stayed similar in both OO- and CO-fed mice, only CO-fed mice demonstrated reduced spontaneous locomotor activity. Such depressed activity in CO-fed mice was accompanied by a lower respiratory ratio, hyperinsulinemia and impaired glucose disposal following intraperitoneal glucose tolerance and insulin tolerance tests compared to OO-fed mice.

Unlike the liver, where both HF diets increased expression of fat oxidation genes like PPARs, the skeletal muscle of CO-fed mice failed to up-regulate such genes, thereby supporting the metabolic insufficiencies observed in these mice.

In summary, this study demonstrates a specific contribution of n-6 PUFA-rich oils like CO to the loss of spontaneous physical activity and insulin sensitivity in mice.

If these data hold true for humans, this study could provide a novel link between recent increases in dietary n-6 PUFA to sedentary behavior and the development of insulin resistance in the Western world.