Junk food experiment on rats branded 'ridiculous'
An experiment in which rats were fed crisps, cheese, biscuits, and chocolate bars has been branded "ridiculous" and "outrageous" by anti-vivisection campaigners.
The study, funded by the charity Diabetes UK, was conducted at University College London and the Royal Veterinary College to demonstrate the effect of junk food on the kidneys.
It showed that in lab rats eating junk food caused harmful changes similar to those associated with Type 2 diabetes.
For the study, one group of rats was given a choice of "cafeteria diet" snacks consisting of cheese, potato crisps, flapjacks, marshmallows, muffins, doughnuts, biscuits and chocolate bars.
Dr Katy Taylor, director of science at Cruelty Free International - formerly the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) - said: "It is outrageous that UK researchers, funded by a UK charity, are forcing animals to suffer and die in cruel and ridiculous junk food experiments. Studies in humans have already demonstrated the effects on the body of eating junk food, and the links between diabetes and effects on the kidneys are well known."
A paper published in the journal Experimental Physiology described how one group of animals gorged on the treats for eight weeks while another ate high-fat rodent food.
Some rats were injected with a chemical to trigger Type 1 diabetes while others were genetically modified to develop the Type 2 version of the disease.
All were killed at the end of the experiment, either by being placed in carbon dioxide chambers to "suffocate to death" or by lethal injection, said Cruelty Free International.
The study showed that exposure to junk food caused changes in the kidney similar to those that increase sugar reabsorption in Type 2 diabetes.
Lead researcher Dr Havovi Chichger, from Anglia Ruskin University, said when the results were published on May 11: "The Western diet contains more and more processed junk food and fat and there is a well-established link between excessive consumption of this type of food and recent increases in the prevalence of obesity and Type 2 diabetes.
"In our study, Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes both induce changes in glucose transport in the kidneys, but junk food or a diet high in fat causes changes that are very similar to those found in Type 2 diabetes."
Elizabeth Robertson, director of research at Diabetes UK, said: "While we respect that some people may be opposed to animal research, we believe that animal studies are essential in our efforts to improve the lives of millions of people living with all forms of diabetes.
"We only fund research involving animals when there is no other option, and all of the research we fund adheres to strict ethical guidelines laid out by the Association of Medical Research Charities."