A new study on your body’s internal clock could lead to innovative new treatments for obesity.
Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine have shown, in mice, that a certain liver gene links to our body’s circadian clock. Our circadian system is what keeps us in a healthy balance of eat and sleep.
But what’s even more cutting-edge about their research is that they have shown that the gene also alters the microbiome of our guts.
Increasingly, “the gut” has become a trending topic in medical news. That’s because research is emerging every day that shows how our guts can regulate our lives – everything from our immune systems to our metabolism.
Metabolism is important because if abnormal it can lead to weight disorders and other problems.
Independently, previous studies also have shown the microbiome impacts metabolism.
Study Has Huge Implications for Mothers
The Baylor study was published this spring in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. It pertains primarily to women, if in fact it does end up having any human implications.
If women containing the disruptive gene can be treated by altering their microbiomes, they also might help establish a healthy microbiome in their baby’s gut even if the baby also gets the gene.
“The scientists genetically engineered mice to lack only in the liver a gene involved in circadian rhythm, the Npas2 gene,” Baylor explains in a news release. “Then, they determined the effect of lacking the gene in a traditional test for circadian genes.”
That test involved disrupting the feeding hours of the mice. “Instead of having access to unrestricted amounts of food for 12 hours at night (the normal feeding time for mice), the mice had access to food for four hours during the day,” Baylor reported.
Stool samples showed the microbiome, tiny animals (bacteria) living in our guts, had been dramatically altered in mice not containing the gene.
According to the Baylor news release, the study could help moms and their newborns in myriad ways. “The researchers further speculate that their findings may lead to more studies aimed at better understanding the intricate interactions between major disturbances of the circadian clock for both mother and child during neonatal life (when newborns are still learning day from night), the microbiome and preserving the mother’s weight and metabolism.”
Weight Loss and Weight Gain-Resistant People May Have New Options
“We speculate that our findings may lead to solutions for people who are resistant to losing weight with restricted feeding as well as the opposite situation,” said senior author Dr. Kiersti Aagaard.
“If we manipulated the microbiome, could we see lesser or more weight loss by just changing the time of our feeding? Our study could also be applied to situations in which we don’t want to see weight loss, such as cancer patients receiving chemotherapy or during times of life in which sleep patterns are turned upside down.”
In the paper, the authors claim the findings are trailblazing. “Here, we have provided initial key insight into the interplay between neonatal establishment of the peripheral circadian clock in the liver and the ability of the gut microbiome to respond to dietary and metabolic stress.
“Because Npas2 expression in the liver is a target of maternal high-fat diet-induced metabolic perturbations during fetal development, we speculate that these findings have potential implications in the long-term metabolic health of their offspring.”
In the meantime, conventional wisdom of “don’t eat before you go to bed” is one way to keep from putting on pounds.
A professional journalist nearly 30 years, David Heitz started his career at the Quad-City Times in Davenport, Iowa before moving to Los Angeles. He led the Glendale News-Press to best small daily newspaper in the state (CNPA) as managing editor and also worked as executive news editor of the Press-Telegram. He worked briefly as deputy news editor of the Detroit News before returning to the Quad-Cities, where he has worked as a freelance medical writer since 2012 for several national websites. He recently purchased his childhood home and says he truly is “living the dream.”