The Next New Diet Is Based on Circadian Rhythms

Just another fad or science?

The Lempert Report

Researchers at Salk’s Regulatory Biology Laboratory are finding evidence that circadian rhythm disruptions can influence diet and sleep and other areas of life.

Circadian rhythms follow a daily cycle and are among the most common types of biological clock, as most organisms, including people, are active during the day but sleep at night. But other aspects of life can also oscillate throughout the day, including cognitive ability or even mood. 

Researchers at Salk’s Regulatory Biology Laboratory are finding more and more evidence that disruptions to this timing can influence diet and sleep and lead to obesity, stress, metabolic disorder and possibly even cancer.

“The circadian clock is the body’s internal timing system, which interacts with the timing of light and food to produce our daily rhythms,” says Salk professor Satchidananda Panda.   

In the process of exploring how the liver’s daily cycles work, Panda found that mice that eat within a set amount of time (8-12 hours) resulted in slimmer, healthier mice than those who ate the same number of calories in a larger window of time, showing that when one eats may be as important as what one eats. If the benefits of this “time-restricted eating" hold true in humans, it could have profound impacts on treating overeating disorders, diabetes and obesity.

Panda studies the genes, molecules and cells that keep the whole body on the same internal clock. His lab has discovered that nearly 80% of genes follow a circadian rhythm, and he identified a pair of genes that help keep eating schedules in sync with daily sleep cycles. He often refers to the “discipline of the clock,” the fact that biological activity—such as the production of proteins that help process food—rises during an animal’s waking period and slows during its resting period.

Modern society offers access to food 24/7 now. Our changes in eating patterns affect how the body processes food and how it functions and may well be one of obesity's biggest challenges


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