Long-term cafeteria feeding, cold exposure, and the combination of treatments increased energy intake in female Wistar rats by 25%, 113%, and 150%, respectively, in comparison with controls (P < 0.01). Although cafeteria feeding at room temperature markedly increased the insulin response to an intravenous glucose tolerance test (IVGTT), glucose tolerance was deteriorated (P < 0.01). In contrast, cold exposure significantly improved glucose tolerance in the presence of a reduced insulin response in Purina- and cafeteria-fed animals. Moreover, cold exposure also decreased body weight gain and increased brown adipose tissue mass, total cytochrome-oxidase activity, and cellularity by approximately 600–800%. The results suggest that cold exposure enhances insulin sensitivity of peripheral tissues, whereas hyperphagia on a high-fat, low-protein diet leads to insulin resistance. In addition, the results demonstrate that prolonged stimulation of energy expenditure by cold exposure not only reverses the diabetogenic effects of cafeteria feeding but also improves glucose tolerance. This phenomenon could result from a combination of two factors: (1) a cold-induced prevention of obesity; and (2) an enhanced disposal of circulating glucose into peripheral tissues, including brown adipose tissue.

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