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Changing your meal times could help you beat jet lag and shift work

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Around one in five individuals in Western nations might be placing their health in danger simply by going to work. It’s because working shifts outdoors of the rest of the inhabitants’s regular hours has been linked to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and even declines in brain function.

Scientists assume it’s because our bodies are programmed to run on cycles referred to as circadian rhythms, and modifications in our routine brought on by shift work or travelling long distances disrupts these rhythms. But our new research suggests that the consequences of shift work or jet lag on our physique clocks might be lowered just by altering the occasions at which individuals eat.

The key to this principle is the concept each individual doesn’t just have a single body clock but quite a posh network of billions of mobile clocks found all through the physique. In humans and other mammals, there is a master clock within a area of the mind referred to as the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) and lots of peripheral clocks found elsewhere.

In most people, the master SCN clock is about to the planet’s natural cycle of light and darkish. The SCN clock then synchronises the peripheral clocks by controlling the rhythms of nerve activity, hormone secretion, body temperature and behavior comparable to sleep-wake cycles. By synchronising the peripheral clocks, the SCN maintains the harmony of all the physique’s rhythms.

Vital modifications in our every day routines, for example once we fly into one other time zone or work in a single day shifts, can desynchronise these rhythms. In the brief time period, this could disrupt our sleeping and eating patterns and make us feel tired and unwell (jet lag). Over a longer period, scientists think it may contribute to the health issues associated with shift work.

Individuals flying long distances typically try to minimise jet lag by adjusting their routines to their new time zones as quickly as potential. For our analysis, we needed to see how one facet of this strategy – changing meal occasions – affected circadian rhythms. We found that delaying meals by a specific amount induced an identical shift in some peripheral clocks, with out changing the master clock. This is necessary as a result of research in animals suggests peripheral clocks take longer to adjust to a new routine.

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