Dr Gad Asher, clinician and medical researcher from the Department of Biological Chemistry at Weizmann Institute of Science, presented research to a Melbourne seminar on obesity that found every cell in the body has a circadian clock.
His research into the circadian clock (that regulates our sleep-wake cycle), shows that disruptions to the clock may be linked to metabolic disorders such as obesity and type-2 diabetes.
Researchers state that sleeping for eight hours a night and eating during daylight hours could be as important in controlling your weight gain as diet and exercise are.
In particular, Dr Asher’s research team discovered that a protein related to ageing and metabolism, called SIRT1, is the missing link between the circadian clocks and metabolism and could be a factor in metabolic disorders. This ties with research that shows shift workers who eat late at night and sleep during the day are more disposed to obesity.
With further research, it is possible the SIRT1 protein could become a target for medicines that might improve the efficiency of the body’s metabolism hopefully enabling humans to burn more fat, Dr Asher said.
In the meantime, he warned those watching their weight that, “If you don’t eat according to the circadian clock, it can lead to obesity. It is important to eat during the day and not during the night to maximise the metabolic response to food and keep weight under control”.
Shantha Rajaratnam from Australia’s Monash University’s School of Psychology and Psychiatry wants to test Dr Asher’s theories on humans in his sleep laboratory.
Dr Rajaratbam studies the sleep patterns of shift-workers and how the circadian clock affects their daytime performance.