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Evidence of How Food
Might Shift Body Clock

, Reuter's Health

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - The body has an internal clock that affects vital signs such as temperature and blood pressure and also influences when we sleep and wake.

While many experts argue that light has the strongest influence on how that clock is oriented, some evidence suggests that what and when we eat might p]lay an equally, if not more important, role. Now, new study findings by Dr. Steven McKnight of the University of Texas Southwest Medical Center in Dallas and colleagues provide further evidence that food has a significant effect on our internal clock, or circadian rhythm.

Regardless of whether food or light has the upper hand, more and more evidence suggests that people who travel to a new time zone should adopt the meal schedule of the new place to help combat jet lag, McKnight told Reuters Health.

If an airline offers a large meal that matches the place you just left but not where you are going, the researcher suggested opting out, and trying to train your stomach to adopt to your destination's time zone. "Begin to have your feeding cycle on that new daylight schedule that you're going to be in," McKnight advised.

Previous experiments have shown that mice, which normally sleep during the day, can be taught to reverse their schedule if they are only fed during daylight hours. Genetic analyzes of these altered mice reveal that genes that were turned on when the mice slept during the day were now turned off--and vice versa--indicating that their body had undergone internal changes to adapt to the shift in schedule.

Recently, McKnight and his team discovered more details on how food can influence circadian rhythms. Food contributes a certain amount of fuel for the body processes, which gets stored in the form of a substance known as NADPH. When that fuel is used up, it becomes converted into NADP.

The researchers demonstrated that the Clock gene transcription factor, which controls how our body clock is set at certain times, may sense how much NADP is present in relation to the amounts of NADPH and act accordingly. In humans, for instance, in the morning the body contains little NADPH relative to NADP, since the night is spent using up fuel rather than adding it via meals. This particular ratio of NADP to NADPH may tell the transcription factor to behave in a certain fashion--in humans, it helps tell the body clock it is time to wake up.

Now, McKnight and his team discovered new findings that help link circadian rhythms to metabolism, which he presented Sunday at the Society for Neuroscience's annual meeting in Orlando, Florida.

At the meeting, McKnight demonstrated that mice that lack the Clock gene transcription factor are unable to switch to sleeping during the night when they are only fed during daylight hours. Mice tend to spend many of their waking hours running on a wheel, and those that lack this body clock regulator also are unable to take naps between their normal waves of activity, a characteristic habit in mice.

All in all, McKnight said he believes that all of the previous evidence demonstrates that food has a stronger influence on circadian rhythms than light. "When you ask whether food or light wins, food wins," he told Reuters Health.

Reference Source 89


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