As usual it all comes back to our circadian rhythms, the 24 hour body clock that more and more evidence is pointing to, controls our health and wellbeing. Many of us believe that light is the only entrainer of circadian rhythms. Granted it is one of the most important but meal timing and size of meals also plays a vital role in regulating our body clocks. When meals occur at regular times of the day the body begins to associate them with specific times of the day. This then allows the human endocrine systems to regulate hormone secretion at the right times of days to aid in hunger, satiety and digestion.
Outside of the GI tract it also appears that genes associated with the human body clock and controlled by eating. Eating meals at the right time of day can act like a conductor of a large symphony orchestra but eating at the wrong time of the day can make even the greatest band sound like a screaming cat. Those most at risk from this is shift workers, granted their body clocks are smashed to bits by reversed sleep/wake cycles but their meals at odd times of the day are also leading to metabolic diseases.
Those of us who favour rushing out of the door in the morning on an empty stomach and quaffing down a large Starbucks as their first meal of the day are much more at risk of obesity. Skipping breakfast has been shown in many studies to increase a person’s susceptibility to weight gain over time for example.
Going back to circadian gene expression it appears that we are all very different. In healthy people skipping breakfast affected gene activity to a lesser degree than someone already suffering from diabetes. Therefore, when a diabetic is looking to manage blood sugar levels skipping food altogether in the mornings is having an adverse effect on their circadian health and metabolic disease markers.
How can we make sure we have healthy circadian rhythms? Well we can entrain our body clocks with morning sunlight exposure, we can manage artificial light with BLUblox blue light glasses and we can eat our biggest meal under sunlight in the morning and not eat much after dark. This will then create a regular bed time and wake time and make our genes expression much less when we have to slightly tweak our meal timings and size.