Study: Some Dietary Fats May Impair Body's Internal Clock

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • There’s been a lot of debate about high-fat diets recently. For instance, author Nina Teicholz reported that while concerns about saturated fat clogging arteries goes back to the 1950s, the groundbreaking study that made everyone pay attention was actually flawed. However it wasn’t until 30 years later that the Women’s Health Initiative found that a low-fat diet did not lead to meaningful weight loss or cardiovascular disease. Teicholz also pointed to a study out of Harvard that found that participants who ate a high-fat, low-carb Atkins diet (with fat from plant sources) were healthier than people who ate a low-fat diet or a Mediterranean diet.

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    With that said, you still may want to think about the fats that you eat. For instance, a study out of Texas A&M University looked at diet’s relationship to the body’s clock using animals as subjects. One group was fed a high-fat diet while the control groups were put on a low-fat diet. Researchers found that the animals that ate the high-fat diet experienced an increase in their body’s internal clock. The researchers explained that this change in the internal body clock from a 24-hour cycle to a 30-33 hour cycle is similar to a watch with a weak battery that ends up losing time. In this experiment, the saturated fatty acids served as the weak watch battery for the animals’ bodies.


    This loss of 6-8 hours of time daily by the body’s internal clock caused important inflammatory and metabolic processes to trigger at abnormal times throughout the day. These changes in metabolic processes caused the body to become less efficient, thus opening the door for the development of chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke and arthritis.


    “As key components of inflammation in obesity, immune cells contain circadian clocks that regulate daily rhythms in inflammatory responses,” said Dr. David Earnest, a professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine’s Department of Neuroscience and Experimental Therapeutics and one of the study’s authors. “Our experiment was able to demonstrate that a high-fat diet alters the molecular ‘gears’ of the clock along with the inflammatory responses in these immune cells, which can lead to metabolic disorders.”


    The researchers also found that timing of when you eat also makes a difference in how your body responds to foods. Their study suggested that unhealthy eating habits late at night actually can disrupt the immune cells’ internal clock.


    Therefore, it’s important to pick your fats wisely. The Mayo Clinic recommends using three types of dietary fats to your diet (as opposed to trans fats and saturated fats). These recommended fats include:

    • Monounsaturated fat, which are found in a number of foods and oils. This type of fat improves blood cholesterol levels and also may benefit insulin levels and blood sugar control.
    • Polyunsaturated fat, which is found mostly in plant-based foods and oils. This type of fat improves blood cholesterol levels and also may help lower the risk of type 2 diabetes.
    • Omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in some fatty fish as well as plant sources. This type of fat is believed to be especially beneficial for your heart.


  • “Keeping our body clock running properly is vital,” Earnest said. “To promote health, we need to eat healthy foods, and more importantly keep a healthy lifestyle, which includes avoiding sleeping late and eating at night. Time your body right and it will work better.”

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    Primary Sources for This Sharepost:


    Duane, D. (ND). The high-fat diet, explained. Men’s Journal.


    Hang, et al. (2014). Myeloid cell-specific disruption of period1 and period2 exacerbates diet-induced inflammation and insulin resistance. The Journal of Biological Chemistry.


    Lambert, H. (2014). “Battle of the bulge” may be linked to body clock in immune cells. Texas A&M Health Science Center.


    Mayo Clinic. (ND). Dietary fats: Know which types to choose.

Published On: December 22, 2014

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