You are when you eat?

Most people have heard the phrase “you are what you eat”. How about “you are when you eat”?

The 16th April 2016 edition of the New Scientist contained a fascinating article, written by Catherine de Lange, about the role of “timing” on our physiology. If you thought you had one body clock, think again.


Researchers and scientists interested in the field called Chrononutrition think that we are not governed by one clock, but thousands, or more. Each organ, each system runs to its own beat. The liver, pancreas, heart, pancreas, fat cells, etc, have their own unique circadian rhythm. And only regular patterns of behaviour will cause them to synchronise.


Eating regularly, the same time each day, causes the organs to line up, clockwork fashion. The liver, digestive system, etc are waiting. Testers pushed mice out of step by 12 hours. It took their livers 3-4 days to catch up and the heart and kidneys a week.


A study of 5000 people found that those who ate irregular meals showed a higher prevalence of cardiovascular problems and diabetes. Shift workers unfortunately are a group particularly impacted in this way. (I worked shifts for 15 years and recall how they screwed everything up)


When you step out of the daily rhythm: real-time jet lag; social jet lag or long lie-ins at the weekend, you disrupt the body. The organs which might have worked in step Mon-Friday are now out of step and are not quite ready for that brunch. Do that for two days and all the internal clocks are out of sync. On Monday they get messed with again when we push them back to a new time-zone!


Dieters with a good circadian rhythm were found to lose more weight. So by rising at the same time, to eat at the same time, they lost more. Also, if they fixed their main meal of the day before 3pm, they lost 25% more.


To show how disruptive altering your food rhythm is they tested a group of lean, healthy women and had them eat later on. Within a week, it screwed up their metabolism, messed their glucose tolerance, and upset the daily balance of their stress hormone levels. They went fit to fat metabolically in one week. Diabolical!


So, managing weight is about more than WHAT you eat. It is about taking control of your routines and eating times. It seems astonishing that simply getting into a daily routine (that is an every day routine) has such a profound effect.


Regular meals at regular times causes the organs to be in step so they can then process food efficiently, and keep the metabolism/hormone levels balanced.


The suprachiasmatic nucleus in the hypothalamus initiates an alarm-clock for the brain and all the organs to get up and in line - that’s just morning light hitting your eyes. But that initiates the WHEN of what you eat.