Connection Between Food and Sleep? Japanese Researchers Examine the Link


Researchers reporting in Cell Reports and Science Daily examined how adjusting the body clock through dietary manipulation may help patients with various conditions.


The so-called ‘circadian’ clock is known for its connection to sleep times, peak alertness, and the timing of certain physiological processes. According to researchers at Yamaguchi University in Japan, 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 Dr. Makoto Akashi, of Yamaguchi University.


The circadian clock’s response to food is not well understood, but through experiments in cells and mice, Akashi and his colleagues found, using cell culture, that insulin, a pancreatic hormone that is secreted in response to feeding, may be involved in resetting the circadian clock.


“Insulin-mediated phase adjustment of the clock in feeding-relevant tissues may enable the synchronization between mealtime and tissue function, leading to effective digestion and absorption,” said Akashi. “In short, insulin may help the stomach clock synchronize with mealtime.”


The researchers’ findings could help dietitians and sleep specialists 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 Akashi.


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