What You Eat May Help Get Jetlag Under Control By Resetting Your Body Clock

David Warner sleeps next to his Baggy Green Cap and a replica Ashes Urn. Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

Japanese scientists have found a link between the foods you eat and your body clock.

They report that insulin may be involved in resetting the clock, and explain how to adjust the circadian clock through dietary manipulation, such as eating an insulin-releasing, and consequently sleep-promoting, large meal before going to sleep if you are jet-lagged.

Food not only nourishes the body but also affects its internal biological clock, which regulates the daily rhythm of many aspects of human behaviour and biology.

Researchers reporting in the journal Cell Reports provide new insights into how adjusting the clock through dietary manipulation may help patients with various conditions and show that insulin may be involved in resetting the clock.

An internal biological or circadian clock plays an important role in preferred sleep times, times of peak alertness, and the timing of certain physiological processes.

The clock enables maximum expression of genes at appropriate times of the day, allowing organisms to adapt to the Earth’s rotation.

“Chronic desynchronization between physiological and environmental rhythms not only decreases physiological performance but also carries a significant risk of diverse disorders such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, sleep disorders, and cancer,” says Makoto Akashi of Yamaguchi University in Japan.

The circadian clock involves two major pathways. The first, which responds to light, has been well characterised. The second, which responds to food, is less understood.

Through experiments in cells and mice, Dr Akashi and his colleagues found that insulin, a pancreatic hormone secreted in response to feeding, may be involved in resetting the circadian clock.

The researchers’ findings provide valuable information on how to adjust the circadian clock through dietary manipulation.

“For example, for jet lag, dinner should be enriched with ingredients promoting insulin secretion, which might lead to a phase advance of the circadian clock, whereas breakfast would be the opposite,” says Dr Akashi.

The findings also suggest that clock adjustments through feeding might not work well in individuals with insulin resistance, a characteristic of patients with type 2 diabetes. Also, there may be side effects related to the circadian clock when treating patients with insulin.

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