Your natural biological clock may be affecting how your body processes fat…and working against your efforts to lose weight.
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found that mice fed opposite their “natural” nocturnal schedule gained weight with no change in their diet while the control group fed at normal times did not. Their findings were published in Nature Medicine.
Georgios Paschos, PhD, an associate professor involved in the study, explained, “A relatively modest shift in food consumption into what is normally the rest period for mice can favor energy storage. Our mice became obese without consuming more calories.”
He likened the phenomena to an orchestra, “The percussionist can bang the drum without instructions from the conductor – here we see that the orchestrated behavior of the percussionist can, itself, influence the conductor.”
How Eating Late Disrupts Your Metabolism
Eating late and opposite your body’s natural “rhythm” results in lower fatty (EPA and DHA) acids and leptin levels – leptin is the hormone that regulates the way your body uses energy – which your brain uses to determine whether you’re hungry or not.
Paschos stated, “To our amazement, we were able to rescue the entire phenotype by supplementing EPA and DHA [fatty acids] to the animals.”
Over time, unaccustomed changes to your eating “clock” can disrupt your metabolism and result in higher body weight – even if you never increase your caloric intake.
Australia’s Monash University conducted a study that found brain cells become insulated when a high-fat diet is consistently consumed. This prevents the brain from communicating effectively.
Professor Michael Cowley explained, “We discovered that a high-fat diet caused brain cells to become insulated from the body, rendering the cells unable to detect signals of fullness to stop eating. The insulation also created a further complication in that the body was unable to detect signals to increase energy use and burn off calories/kilojoules.”
There is mounting evidence that obesity has a much higher link to genetics than previously believed. “The circuits begin to form early in life so people may have a tendency towards obesity even before they eat their first meal,” added Cowley.
Over four months, those mice with a brain-pattern predisposition were studied alongside mice who showed a natural resistance to obesity. With an identical diet, the mice with the “obesity gene” gained 30% more weight than the obesity-resistant group.
Said Professor Cowley, “Obese people are not necessarily lacking willpower. Their brains do not know how full or how much fat they have stored. Subsequently, their body’s ability to lose weight is significantly reduced.”
Higher Risk of Sleep Disorders and Weight Gain in Shift Workers
This has been observed in people who work overnight shifts or suffer from sleep disorders. They historically have a higher risk of obesity and metabolic syndrome. Currently, 8.6 million people have shift jobs – defined by the National Sleep Foundation as anyone working outside a regular 9 to 5 position.
A few occupations with shift schedules include emergency personnel, medical personnel, pilots and truck drivers.
Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston neuroscientist, Frank Scheer, sees the connection between rising physical ailments and working against our natural biological clock.
He explained, “There is strong evidence that shift work is related to a number of serious health conditions, like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity. These differences can’t just be explained by lifestyle or socioeconomic status.”
Long-Term Shift Work Can Result In…
• Mood disorders
• Difficulty sleeping
• Feelings of isolation
• Lack of regular exercise
• Inconsistent nutrition
• Higher risk of accidents
• 40% higher risk of cardiovascular disease
• 50% higher risk of diabetes
• 50-70% higher risk of cancer
Many have no choice regarding their work schedule – but if you have the option, daytime work hours are simply better for your health. If your biological clock is disrupted by family or professional obligations, it is crucial to eat right, exercise regularly and get regular check-ups to monitor your overall health.
Our minds and bodies are intrinsically linked…so it doesn’t just matter what you’re fueling your body with…but when you’re topping off the tank.