London: Do you postpone your meal time? Beware, it may delay one of the body’s clocks, warned researchers in a finding that sheds light on a potential way to alleviate symptoms of jet lag and shift work.
The human body runs according to a roughly 24-hour cycle, controlled by a “master” clock in the brain and peripheral clocks in other parts of the body that are synchronised according to external cues, including light.
The findings showed that a five-hour delay in meal times also causes a five-hour delay in our internal blood sugar rhythms, suggesting that meal times synchronise internal clocks that control rhythms of blood sugar concentration.
“It has been shown that regular jet lag and shift work have adverse effects on the body, including metabolic disturbances,” said lead investigator Jonathan Johnston from the University of Surrey.
Conversely, based on the time a person eats his or her breakfast, lunch, and dinner, at least one of those clocks can also be reset, the study in the journal Current Biology reported.
“Altering meal times can reset the body clocks regulating sugar metabolism in a drug free way. This will help us design feeding regimes to reduce the risk of developing health problems such as obesity and cardiovascular disease in people with disturbed circadian rhythms,” Johnston added.
For the study, the team enrolled ten healthy young men in a 13-day experiment where they ate three meals at 5-hour intervals.
Each participant started with a meal time set to 30 minutes after waking, and then, after getting used to eating early, they switched to a meal served five hours later for six days.
Surprisingly, the delay in meal times did not affect insulin or triglyceride (fat) levels in the blood indicating that blood glucose rhythms can be governed by separate circadian clocks to these other key aspects of rhythmic metabolism, the researchers said.