Let me hear your body clock.
When you eat can have a big effect on your body's circadian rhythms, according to a new study published in Current Biology.
The study, “Meal Timing Regulates the Human Circadian System,” suggests that timing meals could be part of a strategy to reset the body's clocks, potentially helpful in dealing with long-haul flights and jet lag.
The study enrolled 10 young men in a 13-day program that regulated when they ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and then measured their internal circadian rhythms. They began the program eating a meal early each day, and were then switched to a schedule with meals consumed five hours later. By delaying meals, some internal rhythms were also delayed.
“A 5-hour delay in meal times causes a 5-hour delay in our internal blood sugar rhythms," Jonathan Johnston, one of the authors of the study who is at the University of Surrey, said in a statement. “We think this is due to changes in clocks in our metabolic tissues.”
According to the researchers, regulating meal times could help to regulate people's internal clocks.
“We anticipated seeing some delays in rhythms after the late meals, but the size of the change in blood sugar rhythms was surprising,” said Johnston.
Changing meal times is not a cure-all, however: Other metabolic rhythms, like blood insulin and the brain's “master clock,” did not change, according to the researchers. And the change also did not seem to influence the participants' hunger or sleepiness.
However, the study does potentially highlight the importance of paying attention to when you eat when you're adjusting to a new time zone.