Disrupting your body clock 'can make you obese': The cycle of sleeping, waking and digesting affects hormones controlling metabolism
23:04 GMT, 29 August 2012
If that strict diet and rigorous exercise regime are failing to make a dent on your unwanted pounds, take a look at the clock. The body clock, that is.
Scientists believe disruption to the crucial routine of sleeping and eating can make us fat.
And with our busy and often unpredictable lifestyles, such disruption is increasingly common. Dr Cathy Wyse, from the University of Aberdeen, says sleeping and eating at regular times, and ensuring you sleep in pitch darkness may help you stay slim.
Sleeping routine: Scientists believe disrupting the crucial routine of sleeping and eating can make us fat
The cycle of sleeping, waking and digesting over a 24-hour period activates processes in all the cells in the human body, affecting the release of hormones controlling metabolism and other functions.
Light is the main force controlling the body clock of plants, animals and humans, synchronising them to earth’s orbit of the sun.
Dr Wyse said: ‘Electric light allowed humans to override an ancient synchronisation between the rhythm of the human clock and the environment.
‘Over the last century, daily rhythms in meal, sleep and working times have gradually disappeared from our lives.
‘The human clock struggles to remain tuned to our highly irregular lifestyles and I believe this causes metabolic and other health problems, and makes us more likely to become obese.’
In her review of recent research, she notes that the body clock of plants and animals is key to their survival.
Studies on night-shift workers have
shown they are more likely to put on weight, are more susceptible to
diseases including diabetes and tend to die younger.
Research: Dr Cathy Wyse from the University of Aberdeen, pictured, says that sleep and eating at regular times and sleeping in pitch darkness help you stay slim
In her paper, published in Bio-Essays, Dr Wyse said previous research on mice has shown that messing up the body clock – or circadian rhythm – causes changes to genes in the liver which control the breakdown of fat and glucose.
When the normal pattern of dark and light was disrupted, the animals put on weight compared with those in natural conditions, but did not eat more.
She said: ‘This was a really significant finding. We don’t know how the mechanism works, but the circadian rhythm is important in regulating metabolism, more important than we suspected it was.
‘The reason for the relatively sudden increase in global obesity in the developed world seems to be more complicated than just diet and physical activity.
‘If there’s one thing that’s certain about obesity, it’s a complex mix of how we live, what we eat, when we sleep and what we do for work. Circadian rhythm is something we need to keep in mind.’
She added: ‘Medical science has no other effective, non-invasive treatment to offer, and our increasing obese population have nothing to lose but their waistlines.’