Last year, three scientists who found how our bodies tell time won the 2017 Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine.
The body clock, or circadian, rhythm, is the internal mechanism that determines when we sleep and eat.
Recent studies have found that the body clock is very important to our health, and that disrupting it may increase the risks for many diseases.
One recent study from Texas A&M University links breast cancer risk the body clock.
The researchers found Period 2 (Per2), which is a regulatory mechanism within each cell’s peripheral clock. When it is suppressed, animals have impaired gland development.
Thy suggest that the ‘central clock’ mechanisms in our brains are associated with higher risk of cancer growth, obesity, and other problems like jetlag.
Body clock problems are also related to Alzheimer’s disease. It is shown that body clock problems are common for Alzheimer’s disease before any memory loss occurs.
This means the patients cannot sleep for a whole 8 hours. Instead, their sleep becomes fragmented, like several 1-2 hours naps. During the day time, however, they sleep more or become more inactive.
In animals, researchers from Washington University found that similar body clock problem make the brain generates amyloid plaques faster, which are linked to higher Alzheimer’s risk.
Another study published in Hypertension shows that when the body clock is disrupted, even low-salt diets can cause high blood pressure.
This is bad because low-salt diets are an important part of blood pressure control. People with high blood pressure or with the high risk of the disease must reduce their salt intake.
In that way, they can control their blood pressure reading below 130/85. But if their body clock is broken, a low-salt diet still can raise resting blood pressure, making the patients have higher risk of stroke and heart attacks.
So how can people disrupt their body clock?
One way is doing night shifts, which means you work at night and sleep during the day.
Researchers has shown that doing night shifts cause many health problems. For example, it can increase the risk of coronary heart disease, particularly in women.
It can boost the workers’ risk of type 2 diabetes and make it harder to control the disease. It also makes unhealthy diets (like a high-fat meal) more harmful to our body.
Another way is skipping breakfast. Research from Tel Aviv University shows that skipping breakfast is linked to higher risk of chronic diseases like obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.
Breakfast has an important role in the expression of “clock genes” that regulate post-meal glucose and insulin responses of both healthy individuals and diabetics.
When people eat breakfast regularly, the proper cyclic clock gene expression leads to improved glycemic control. When they skip breakfast, the glucose metabolism is damaged.
In addition, the body clock gene regulates our body weight and blood pressure. So, skipping breakfast may hurt your healthy weight gain and blood pressure.
To summarize, all the above findings confirm that the body clock is very critical to our health, and everyone should protect it. When the body clock works normally, we can enjoy good health.
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