PublicationsThe Circadian Clock, Shift Work, and Tissue-Specific Insulin Resistance
Obesity and type 2 diabetes (T2D) have become a global health concern. The prevalence of obesity and T2D is significantly higher in shift workers compared to people working regular hours. An accepted hypothesis is that the increased risk for metabolic health problems arises from aberrantly timed eating behavior, that is, eating out of synchrony with the biological clock. The biological clock is part of the internal circadian timing system, which controls not only the sleep/wake and feeding/fasting cycle, but also many metabolic processes in the body, including the timing of our eating behavior, and processes involved in glucose homeostasis. Rodent studies have shown that eating out of phase with the endogenous clock results in desynchronization between rhythms of the central and peripheral clock systems and between rhythms of different tissue clocks (eg, liver and muscle clock). Glucose homeostasis is a complex process that involves multiple organs. In the healthiest situation, functional rhythms of these organs are synchronized. We hypothesize that desynchronization between different metabolically active organs contributes to alterations in glucose homeostasis. Here we summarize the most recent information on desynchronization between organs due to shift work and shifted food intake patterns and introduce the concept of phenotypic flexibility, a validated test to assess the contribution of each organ to insulin resistance (IR) in humans. We propose this test as a way to provide further insight into the possible desynchronization between tissue clocks. Because different types of IR benefit from different therapeutic approaches, we also describe different chronotherapeutic strategies to promote synchrony within and between metabolically active organs.
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