New research lends a new strategy
Your internal biological or ‘circadian’ clock plays an important role in sleep times, peak alertness, and the timing of physiological processes. This internal clock allows genes to express at appropriate times of the day, allowing us as organisms to adapt to the earth’s rotation. New research reported in Cell Reports demonstrates new insights into how adjusting the clock through dietary manipulation may help patients with various conditions.
“Chronic desynchronization between physiological and environmental rhythms not only decreases physiological performance but also carries a significant risk of diverse disorders such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, sleep disorders, and cancer,” says Dr. Makoto Akashi, of Yamaguchi University, in Japan.
The circadian clock involves two major pathways: the first responds to light and has been well characterized; the second responds to food and is less understood. Through experiments in cells and mice, Dr. Akashi and his colleagues found that insulin, which is secreted in response to feeding, may be involved in resetting the circadian clock. “In short, insulin may help the stomach clock synchronize with mealtime.”
More research is necessary, but the findings are promising that we can adjust the circadian clock through dietary manipulation. “For example, for jet lag, dinner should be enriched with ingredients promoting insulin secretion, which might lead to a phase advance of the circadian clock, whereas breakfast would be the opposite,” says Dr. Akashi. The findings also suggest that clock adjustments through feeding might not work well in individuals with insulin resistance, a characteristic of patients with type 2 diabetes.