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BACKGROUND: Tendinopathy is a major complication of diet-induced obesity. However, the effects of a high-fat diet (HFD) on tendon have not been well characterised. We aimed to determine: [1] the impact of a HFD on tendon properties and gene expression; and [2] whether dietary transition to a control diet (CD) could restore normal tendon health. METHODS: Sprague-Dawley rats were randomised into three groups from weaning and fed either a: CD, HFD or HFD for 12 weeks and then CD thereafter (HF-CD). Biomechanical, histological and structural evaluation of the Achilles tendon was performed at 17 and 27 weeks of age. Tail tenocytes were isolated with growth rate and collagen production determined. Tenocytes and activated THP-1 cells were exposed to conditioned media (CM) of visceral adipose tissue explants, and gene expression was analysed. RESULTS: There were no differences in the biomechanical, histological or structural tendon properties between groups. However, tenocyte growth and collagen production were increased in the HFD group at 27 weeks. There was lower SOX-9 expression in the HFD and HF-CD groups at 17 weeks and higher expression of collagen-Iα1 and matrix metalloproteinase-13 in the HFD group at 27 weeks. THP-1 cells exposed to adipose tissue CM from animals fed a HFD or HF-CD had lower expression of Il-10 and higher expression of Il-1β. CONCLUSIONS: In this rodent model, a HFD negatively altered tendon cell characteristics. Dietary intervention restored some gene expression changes; however, adipose tissue secretions from the HF-CD group promoted an increased inflammatory state in macrophages. These changes may predispose tendon to injury and adverse events later in life.

Original publication




Journal article


Int orthop

Publication Date



Achilles tendon, Animal model, High-fat diet, Obesity