Health/Sci-TechLifestyleVOLUME 18 ISSUE # 44

Eating a hearty breakfast can ease jet lag symptoms: study

Our internal body clock, or circadian rhythm, helps us feel alert during the day and tired at night. But travel, shift work, caring for a newborn, or anything that messes with your sleep schedule can throw that delicate system off-kilter.

In the short term, this can lead to fatigue, insomnia, or an upset stomach. But evidence suggests that over time the effects  can be more serious, increasing health risks like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, and cancer. Experts often recommend light exposure to ease the effects, but research has been finding that meal timing may be just as important. A study published this month in Chaos suggests that eating a large meal in the early morning could be key. “Both our study and experimental evidence suggests that keeping [light and feeding] cues in sync — such as avoiding eating at night — is beneficial,” said lead study author Yitong Huang, PhD, a researcher in the department of molecular biosciences at Northwestern University.

A lot of research on circadian rhythm has focused on the “central” body clock, found in part of the brain called the  suprachiasmatic nucleus. The central clock responds to sunlight. But research over the past 20 years has revealed that the circadian system involves not just one body clock but many. Present in almost every cell and tissue, these clocks calibrate to different cues, said Huang. Many organs reset with meals. The researchers developed a theoretical mathematical model that allowed them to take a new approach – studying how these clocks interact, not just with external cues, but also with each other.