The changes in metabolic efficiency, body composition, and nutrient partitioning induced by high-fat feeding were evaluated in adult rats (90d of age). The alterations in serum free triiodothyronine, insulin, and leptin levels, as well as in hepatic and skeletal muscle metabolism, were also assessed. Rats were fed either a low- or a high-fat diet for 2 weeks. Relative to the low-fat feeding, energy intake and expenditure, as well as body-energy gain, lipid gain, and energetic efficiency, were increased by the high-fat feeding. Increased serum leptin levels accompanied these variations. A positive correlation between serum leptin levels and percentage of body fat was found in the rats fed the low- or high-fat diet, with a significant divergence between the slope of the regression lines. Furthermore, a negative correlation between serum leptin level and energy intake was found in the rats fed the low-fat diet, while a positive correlation was found in the rats fed the high-fat diet. Finally, the high-fat feeding decreased the hepatic and skeletal muscle mitochondrial oxidative capacity. It is concluded that, in adult rats, a nutritional factor such as a high level of fat in the diet induces obesity, leptin resistance, and impairment of mitochondrial capacity, all phenomena typical of unrestrained aged rats.