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Does the time we eat affect our health?

By Tim Sandle     Feb 15, 2014 in Health
The ways in which the timing of eating can influence health is an area of debate. New research shows that the timing of meals affects the levels of lipids in the livers of mice.
It is fairly well established that circadian rhythms affect metabolism, but how much do meals and the time that we eat them affect the body clock and hence our health? Circadian rhythms of 24 hours govern fundamental physiological functions in people (as well as other animals). The circadian clocks are intrinsic time-tracking systems in our bodies that anticipate environmental changes and adapt themselves to the appropriate time of day.
In a study, researchers have shown in mice that the timing of meals affects the levels of triglycerides in the liver. The variation came about when mice were either fed during the day or at night. In the human body, high levels of triglycerides in the bloodstream have been linked to atherosclerosis and, by extension, the risk of heart disease and stroke. Diets high in refined carbohydrates, with carbohydrates accounting for more than 60% of the total energy intake, can increase triglyceride levels.
Lead author Gad Asher of the Weizmann Institute said in a statement: "he striking outcome of restricted nighttime feeding . . . is of clinical importance. No currently available drugs have been shown to change lipid accumulation as efficiently and drastically as simply adjusting meal timeā€”not to mention the possible side effects that may be associated with such drugs."
The research was carried out by scientists based at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel and the Sanford-Burnam Medical Resarch Institute in Florida. The study has been published in the journal Cell Metabolism ("Circadian Clocks and Feeding Time Regulate the Oscillations and Levels of Hepatic Triglycerides").
In a related area, a new study has shown that diets high in fat also alter circadian rhythms. This means that high fat diets can alter the body clock, leading to various sleep disruptions and body changes.
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