Is what you eat affecting your circadian rhythms? Do you even know what circadian rhythms are? Ok, let’s start with that first, as while you may not know what that word is you will definitely know what they are as they are a fundamental part of your life.
As per Wikipedia: “A circadian rhythm is any biological process that displays an endogenous, entrainable oscillation of about 24 hours. These 24-hour rhythms are driven by a circadian clock, and they have been widely observed in plants, animals, fungi, and cyanobacteria.”
Admittedly this might not help you as it is rather sciency. Basically your circadian rhythm is your daily cycle. It is regulated by your circadian clock, which is often referred to as your body clock. This is the internal time piece that makes sure that you are awake during the day and tired during the night (amongst many other different functions).
The body clock is regulated by melatonin, which is in turn regulated by light levels. Exposure to light inhibits melatonin production and darkness encourages it. Melatonin makes you sleepy, so you want more of it at night. For a long time we have known that things like iPads and iPhones mess with your melatonin production but what is this about food intake and your circadian rhythms?
What you eat may be affecting your circadian rhythms
Well, some new research has exposed a relatively little known factor in the body’s circadian functions: food intake. The study was conducted by a Japanese team and looked at mice’s cellular activity to see how their diet impact their body clock. They were quite shocked by the results. The found that not only does melatonin have a role in circadian rhythms but so too does the hormone insulin. Insulin is best known with regard to diabetics as it plays a key role in the body’s ability to break down carbohydrates, ensuring that glucose (blood sugar) is able to go from your blood to your cells.
The study found that insulin may be involved in ‘resetting’ the body clock. Dr. Makoto Akashi, of Yamaguchi University, in Japan and study lead explains that “Insulin-mediated phase adjustment of the clock in feeding-relevant tissues may enable the synchronization between mealtime and tissue function, leading to effective digestion and absorption," he says. "In short, insulin may help the stomach clock synchronize with mealtime.”
He goes on to state that “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.”
This means that with more research we may be able to use different foods to help us reset our circadian rhythms, something that could be particularly useful for people travel internationally and people who do shift work.
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