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Timing Your Meals for Better Health

WHAT you eat may be just as important as WHEN you eat it.

wall clock

Recent research suggests that the mitochondria - the cells' power plants- are regulated by the body's circadian clock. This may help explain why people who eat and sleep out of sync with their natural circadian rhythm have a higher chance of obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and other diseases.

Dr. Gad Asher, who led the study, explains that circadian clocks, which are found in living things from bacteria to flies and humans, control our rhythms of sleep, activity, eating and metabolism. “In a sense,” he says, “it’s like a daily calendar, telling the body what to expect, so it can prepare for the future and operate optimally.”

Researchers looked for circadian changes in the mitochondria and found a key enzyme that determines the rate of sugar use for energy production. This protein reaches its maximal amount four hours into daylight, suggesting that the mitochondrial capacity for burning sugar peaks around this time, as well. This suggests that, since humans are naturally active during the day, eating only during daylight hours could be a key in maintaining a healthy weight.

“These findings support previous findings in our lab in which we showed that if mice eat only at night, when they are active, rather than throughout the day and night, they will eat the same amount of calories but their liver lipid levels will be 50% lower,” says Asher. “In other words, the outcome depends not only on what you eat but also on when you eat it. If we could be more aware of the timing of our cellular activities, we might be able to take advantage of various nutrients in a healthier way."


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