For a long time now, we have been aware that a high-fat diet contributes to various diseases such as obesity, cardiovascular diseases, as well as sleep apnoea. American physicians are now suggesting that an excess of lipids (fat) in the diet also likely confuses the biological clock. The circadian clock, proper to all living beings, regulates our physiological systems on a cycle of around 24 hours. During this cycle, we experience optimal times to fall asleep, to wake up, to dream and to be active. However, when this clock malfunctions in human beings, it can cause diseases and syndromes, such as sleep disorders.
Scientists conducted an experiment on mice which clearly demonstrated that a diet rich in fat actually did confuse the functioning of their internal clock. Because of this diet, their feeling of hunger as well as the alternation of sleep/wake cycles did not function properly.
The six-week study was conducted on two groups of mice. While one group was fed a regular diet, the other received a high-fat diet. Two weeks after the beginning of the experiment, the mice on the high-fat diet, in which 45% of calories were contributed by fat, had modified their pattern of time spent eating and being active, as well as their periods of rest and sleep. Notably, they had changed their eating habits in such a way that they were now eating during their normal sleep period. Further tests also demonstrated a decrease in levels of some of the molecules produced by the body’s biological clock.
We have known for quite a long time that a diet rich in fat leads to obesity and other disorders of the metabolism. But unfortunately, many of the mechanisms actually involved remain unknown. These observations carried out on mice have launched a new research lead on the link between a high-fat diet, diabetes and obesity.