Cold acclimation is initially associated with shivering thermogenesis in skeletal muscle followed by adaptive non-shivering thermogenesis, particularly in brown adipose tissue (BAT). In response, hyperphagia occurs to meet increased metabolic demand and thermoregulation. The present study investigates the effects of cold (4 +/- 1 degrees C) acclimation and hyperphagia on circulating and intestinal levels of gastric inhibitory polypeptide (GIP) in rats. Pair fed animals were used as additional controls in some experiments. Cold acclimation for 42 days significantly (p < 0.01) increased daily food intake. There was no corresponding change in body weight. However, body weights of pair fed cold exposed rats were significantly (p < 0.01) reduced compared to controls and ad libitum fed cold exposed rats. By day 42, non-fasting plasma glucose was increased (p < 0.05) by chronic cold exposure regardless of food intake. Corresponding plasma insulin concentrations were significantly (p < 0.01) lower in pair fed cold exposed rats. Circulating GIP levels were elevated (p < 0.05) in ad libitum fed cold acclimated rats on days 18 and 24, but returned to normal levels by the end of the study. The glycaemic response to oral glucose was improved (p < 0.01) in all cold exposed rats, with significantly (p < 0.05) elevated GIP responses in ad libitum fed rats and significantly (p < 0.05) reduced insulin responses in pair fed rats. In keeping with this, insulin sensitivity was enhanced (p < 0.05) in cold exposed rats compared to controls. By the end of the study, cold acclimated rats had significantly (p < 0.01) increased BAT mass and intestinal concentrations of GIP and GLP-1 compared to controls, independent of food intake. These data indicate that changes in the secretion and actions of GIP may be involved in the metabolic adaptations to cold acclimation in rats. (C) 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.