There are large individual differences in the susceptibility for metabolic disorders such as obesity, the metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. Unfortunately, most animal studies in this field ignore the importance of individual variation which limits the face validity of these studies for translation to the human situation. We have performed a series of studies that were particularly focused on the individual differences in the (patho)physiology of energy balance. The studies were performed with passive and proactive individuals of two different rat strains: the Roman High and Low Avoidance rats and the Wild type Groningen rat. The data reveal that passive and proactive individuals differ significantly on several parameters, i.e. body composition, Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis activity, plasma levels of insulin and leptin, intestinal transit time, systolic blood pressure and meal patterns. We also found that the selection line of the Roman Low Avoidance rat may be considered as a non-obese animal model for the metabolic syndrome, since these rats display, under sedentary conditions, many of the related symptoms such as hypertension, visceral adiposity and insulin resistance during an intravenous glucose tolerance test. These symptoms disappeared when the animals were allowed to exercise voluntarily in a running wheel. We conclude that experiments with passive and proactive individuals are highly relevant for studying the (patho)physiology and behavior of energy balance and the related metabolic disorders. (C) 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.