A Ticking 'Food Clock': How excessive holiday eating can disturb our metabolisms
If you're like me this holiday season, you've overindulged in everything from cookies to roasts, extravagant desserts and tons of hors d'oeuvres. Stuffing our faces and trying everything on the table rewards our taste buds with satisfaction-but in the spirit of excessive holiday eating, our bodies often suffer afterwards with a bellyache of feeling full. And unfortunately, all of this excessive holiday eating will disturb our "food clock".
The body's "food clock," is a collection of interacting genes and molecules known technically as the food-entrainable oscillator, which keeps the human body on a metabolic even keel. Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, are studying how this clock works by examining the role of key molecules in our body's metabolism in an effort to help explain what happens when we overindulge at such odd times.
The UCSF team has shown that a protein called PKCγ is critical in resetting the food clock if our eating habits change. The PKCγ protein binds to another molecule called BMAL and stabilizes it, which shifts the clock in time.
An experiment showed that normal mice who were given food only during their regular sleeping hours will adjust their food clock over time and begin to wake up from their slumber. But mice lacking the PKCγ gene are not able to respond to changes in their mealtime and will sleep right through their meal.
The results have potential for understanding the molecular basis of metabolic syndromes like diabetes and obesity because a desynchronized food clock may serve as part of the pathology underlying these disorders, said Louis Ptacek, MD, the John C. Coleman Distinguished Professor of Neurology at UCSF. Ptacek also says the study may also help explain why those that eat at night are more likely to be obese.
"Understanding the molecular mechanism of how eating at the 'wrong' time of the day desynchronizes the clocks in our body can facilitate the development of better treatments for disorders associated with night-eating syndrome, shift work and jet lag," he added.
The food clock is crucial in helping our bodies make the most of our nutritional intake. It controls genes that help absorb nutrients in our digestive tract, which disperses them through the bloodstream. It also is designed to anticipate our eating patterns. For example, before we eat a meal, our bodies begin to turn on and off some of these genes, explaining why our stomachs may growl or why we have hunger pains right before food arrives.
Read more at the University of California, San Francisco.
Holiday feast image via Shutterstock.