The Sleeper

Circadian Rhythms: A Nobel Prize and Obesity Insights

This year’s Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine is here. For their work on the genetic basis of circadian rhythms, Jeffrey Hall, Michael Rosbash, and Michael Young are sharing the prize. They discovered a gene in fruit flies that helps explain the mechanism for just about every living thing to adapt to the rhythms of day and night.

“A Peek Inside Our Biological Clocks”

The Nobel Prize Committee described their work as an important peek inside our biological clocks. They’ve helped to explain how plants, animals, and humans all align their biological rhythms with those of the earth.

With amazing precision, every different phase of the day shapes our physiology. This rhythm drives behavior, hormones, sleep, body temperature, and metabolism. When something disturbs that alignment, like travel or shift work, health suffers. Eating behaviors change for the worse. Metabolic health deteriorates. Obesity, along with other health problems, becomes a greater risk.

Circadian Rhythms and Obesity

A recent review by Eleonora Pagano and colleagues walks us through the connection of biological clocks, white adipose tissue, metabolic health, and obesity. Research is pointing to a role for epigenetic changes to circadian clock genes in driving metabolic diseases and obesity.

Though some long-held views about skipping breakfast have proven false, meal timing can play an important role. Increasingly, evidence points to irregular meal times and heavy meals at night as a source of problems with weight regulation.

The work of these Nobel Prize winners had no immediate link to obesity. But their insights opened up a whole new field of research for understanding obesity.

Click here, here, and here for more on this Nobel Prize. Click here and here for more on the implications for obesity.

The Sleeper, painting by Pierre-Auguste Renoir / WikiArt

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October 3, 2017

One Response to “Circadian Rhythms: A Nobel Prize and Obesity Insights”

  1. October 06, 2017 at 11:36 am, Allen Browne said:

    Yup – always an interesting session at the Blackburn Obesity Course and an important part of the puzzle of how we got to the current situation.