Summary: The new study furthers our understanding of how disruptions in circadian rhythm may contribute to the development of metabolic disorders. It appears that specific changes in the rhythm may be protective, while others may promote metabolic disorders. Hence, developing a greater understanding of the role of circadian rhythm in metabolic disorders could be one of the ways of countering the pandemic of metabolic health issues.
It is no secret that obesity is on the rise globally. It has become a severe problem in developed nations like the US, where most people are overweight. Therefore, a need to develop a better understanding of the condition.
Undoubtedly, one of the reasons for obesity is excessive calorie consumption. However, it is also known that two people consuming similar calories do not gain equal body weight. This is because metabolic differences matter and many factors affect the metabolic processes. Some of the factors cause obesity, and others are protective.
In recent years, researchers have started paying increasing attention to the role of the biological clock and its disruption in obesity. This biological clock is controlled by circadian rhythm.
It appears that under certain circumstances, changes in circadian rhythm may even be protective against obesity. While in other instances, it may promote obesity. The relationship between circadian rhythm and obesity is complex, and understanding it is essential to countering this pandemic of obesity and related disorders.
Here what has amazed researchers is that certain circadian rhythm changes may be protective, unlike what was thought earlier. Like in one of the studies, they inserted mice with a pallet that secreted stress hormones throughout the day and thus disrupting the rhythm.
However, they found that such a kind of stress had a protective role. It resulted in increased movement of fats to fatty tissues, reduced fat accumulation in organs like the liver, and higher insulin production.
The above study tried to imitate chronic stress. It was a study for 21 days. Of course, this is a short period, and results may differ in the long run. Nevertheless, the study shows a complex relationship between circadian rhythm, stress hormones, and obesity.
It means that if animals are stressed at the wrong time, it may have a dramatic impact on their metabolism.
Therefore, to further develop their understanding, researchers carried out another study. In this in-vitro study, they used a special fluorescent protein to monitor the expression of the gene that controls the circadian rhythm and yet another fluorescent marker to visualize the activity of Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptor Gamma (PPARG). This protein plays a vital role in fat cells production
In the study, they made a few interesting findings. They saw that during specific times of the day, Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptor Gamma PPARG levels increased, thus playing a critical role in fat cell production. They found that PPARG activation occurred only for a few hours, about four hours, in a day. This is a short window period.
They found that during the short window, the body decides what happens to fat cells, how many fat cells to create, and much more.
Though, the accumulation of fat cells is a long-term process that occurs in several days. However, what is interesting is that the body makes the decision to form fat cells within a few hours each day.
Researchers say that they are trying to make sense of these findings. For example, they want to understand why short-term stress results in temporary protective effects. Additionally, they are now looking for ways of using these findings to manage obesity and metabolic health disorders.
Researchers say that the relevance of these findings is enormous. For example, in some conditions like asthma, patients are regularly taking glucocorticosteroids.
Thus, researchers now need to understand if regular glucocorticosteroids cause temporary or permanent changes in the metabolic pathways.
Additionally, there is a need to find ways to reset or alter circadian rhythm, as it may provide a safer and non-invasive way of countering obesity and metabolic health disorders.
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