Feeling a little tired and off-color after the Christmas excesses? One of the reasons may not be the simply the copious amounts of food and alcohol but rather the disruption to the body’s internal ‘food clock’.
That the human body is regulated by a food clock is generally well established. However, a recent study by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) has helped scientists to understand how this clock works on a molecular level.
The body’s food clock is a collection of interacting genes and molecules known technically, if a little cumbersomely, as the “food-entrainable oscillator”, which keeps the human body, metabolically, in good shape. The food clock is designed to help people make the most of our nutritional intake.
The impact on the ‘food clock’ felt by many Christmas merrymakers is the same as that experienced by people who are jet-lagged, and those who work night shifts.
The research, as detailed in a briefing, has shown that a protein called PKCγ is critical in resetting the food clock if our eating habits change. The study showed that normal laboratory mice given food only during their regular sleeping hours will adjust their food clock over time and begin to wake up from their slumber, and run around in anticipation of their new mealtime. But mice lacking the PKCγ gene are not able to respond to changes in their meal time, instead sleeping right through it.
The work has implications for understanding the molecular basis of diabetes and obesity. This is because a desynchronized food clock may serve as part of the reason underlying these disorders.
The new research has been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.