Circadian Rhythm and Personalized Nutrition: Study Spotlight Take-Away with Chef Dr. Mike

by Michael S. Fenster, MD

Study Spotlight Take-Away with Chef Dr. Mike

Chrono-Nutrition: Circadian Rhythm and Personalized Nutrition

And time goes by so slowly,
And time can do so much”
~ Unchained Melody, The Righteous Brothers

I am often asked in what way Culinary Medicine differs from the traditional nutrition approach, if at all. One of the key differences in our approach to Culinary Medicine (at The University of Montana) is that while a traditional nutri-centric approach provides much valuable information, our Culinary Medicine approach incorporates many more variables in the food-health equation.

This week’s review highlights one of those other variables, which is not only what we eat but also when we eat. There are many lifestyle and environmental factors surrounding what we choose to consume that contribute to health and wellness or disability and disease beyond simply what is put on a plate.

These factors include our modern around-the-clock access to ultra-processed and energy-dense foods, artificial lighting, shiftwork, jet lag, and social jet lag. Social jetlag is used to describe the discrepancy between biological time, determined by our internal body clock, and social time, mainly dictated by social obligations such as school or work. In industrialized countries, two-thirds of the studying/working population experiences social jetlag.[1]

Increasingly, there is evidence of a complex bidirectional relationship between metabolism and our circadian system. Such a relationship involves an interplay between our circadian rhythm, gut microbiome, and epigenome, with an amazing level of plasticity built in. A study of the effect of these “chrono-disruptors” on our biological processes is part of the evolving field of chrono-nutrition.

[1] (Caliandro, Streng, van Kerkhof, van der Horst, & Chaves, 2021)

The Study:

  • A review article providing an overview of the current evidence on the interactions between the circadian system and nutrition, highlighting how this link could, in turn, influence the epigenome and the human gut microbiome.

The Take-Away:

  • Diet is one of the synchronizers of the human core circadian clock machinery.
  • Circadian desynchrony can be triggered by chrono-disruptors typical of modern societies  such as shiftwork, stress,  jet lag, sleep disruption, and social jet lag, and lead to an increased risk of metabolic disease, particularly obesity, type II diabetes,  and cardiovascular disease.
  • Epigenomes and gut microbiomes (GM) show diurnal rhythms and crosstalk.
  • The human circadian system is composed of a set of interconnected clock oscillators (known as “clock genes”) that are located not only in the brain (suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) of the hypothalamus) but in metabolically active peripheral organs as well.
  • There are naturally occurring variations of human “clock genes,” allowing for differences in response to the light-dark cycle; the three general categories are morning, evening, and intermediate types.
  • Differences in circadian-related genes have been associated with varying susceptibility to obesity, CVD, and Metabolic Syndrome (MetS).
  • Chronodisruption is defined as a “disturbance of the circadian organization of physiology, endocrinology, metabolism, and behavior.”
  • Chrono-nutrition is based on three different dimensions of eating behavior, including timing, frequency, and regularity.
  • Epigenetic changes (in mouse models) were stable but also reversible following prolonged entrainment to a 24-hour day, suggesting a plasticity of response.
  • In addition to dietary regimes, food additives, prebiotic and probiotic supplements, food processing, and cooking choices that contribute to shaping the GM, there are also substantial effects mediated by timing influences, which, in turn, influence the immune and metabolic response of the human host.
From a nutritional genomics perspective, a summary of the complex diet-biological rhythm-omics interplay related to health outcomes. Personalized nutrition, considering an individual’s genome and epigenome combined with chrono-nutrition, could contribute to the fight against non-communicable diseases.
Reproduced from Franzago, M., Alessandrelli, E., Notarangelo, S., Stuppia, L., & Vitacolonna, E. (2023). Chrono-Nutrition: Circadian Rhythm and Personalized Nutrition. Int. J. Mol. Sci, 24: 2571

The Caveats:

  • There are many factors beyond nutrient composition per se that impact the food health equation, and details regarding quality, quantity, and magnitude are in many instances, lacking.
  • Timing, in combination with nutrient composition, appears to impact epigenetic expression in ways not yet fully understood.

Information such as that presented in this paper continues to expand our knowledge base and further reveal the complexity and challenges of the food-health equation. The diverse areas of study highlight the need for a comprehensive team approach to delivering personalized – and delicious – nutrition!

The Studies:

Caliandro, R., Streng, A., van Kerkhof, L., van der Horst, G., & Chaves, I. (2021). Social Jetlag and Related Risks for Human Health: A Timely Review. Nutrients, 13(12):4543. doi: 10.3390/nu13124543.

Franzago, M., Alessandrelli, E., Notarangelo, S., Stuppia, L., & Vitacolonna, E. (2023). Chrono-Nutrition: Circadian Rhythm and Personalized Nutrition. Int. J. Mol. Sci, 24: 2571

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