Clock watching

When you eat may be just as vital to your health as what you eat according to new research undertaken by the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.

Their experiments in mice revealed that the daily waxing and waning of thousands of genes in the liver the body’s metabolic clearinghouse is mostly controlled by food intake and not by the body’s circadian clock as conventional wisdom had it.

“If feeding time determines the activity of a large number of genes completely independent of the circadian clock, when you eat and fast each day will have a huge impact on your metabolism,” says the study’s leader Satchidananda Panda.

The findings could explain why shift workers are unusually prone to metabolic syndrome, diabetes, high cholesterol levels and obesity.

In mammals, the circadian timing system is composed of a central circadian clock in the brain and subsidiary oscillators in most peripheral tissues. The master clock in the brain is set by light and determines the overall diurnal or nocturnal preference of an animal, including sleep-wake cycles and feeding behaviour.

However, the clocks in peripheral organs are largely insensitive to changes in the light regime and instead, their phase and amplitude are affected by many factors including feeding time.

“Our study represents a seminal shift in how we think about circadian cycles,” says Panda. “The circadian clock is no longer the sole driver of rhythms in gene function, instead the phase and amplitude of rhythmic gene function in the liver is determined by feeding and fasting periods.

Source: Medical News Today

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