When you eat is more important than what you eat as researchers have revealed that mitochondria — powerhouse of human cells — is highly regulated by the body’s biological or circadian clocks.
This may help explain why people who sleep and eat out of tune with their circadian clocks are at higher risk of developing obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
“Circadian clocks which are found in living things from bacteria to flies and humans control the rhythms of sleep, activity, eating and metabolism,” said lead author Gad Asher from Weizmann Institute’s biomolecular sciences department in Israel.
“In a sense, it’s like a daily calendar, telling the body what to expect, so it can prepare for the future and operate optimally,” Asher added.
The researchers looked for circadian changes in the mitochondria that, by creating peaks and dips in the cells’ energy levels, would also help regulate day-night cycles.
The group identified and quantified hundreds of mitochondrial proteins which showed the quantities of a whopping 40 percent peak once a day.
Surprisingly, most of the circadian proteins in the mitochondria peaked four hours into the daylight part of the cycle (in mice which are active at night).
The team provided mitochondria with sugar and found that at around fourth hour, respiration and glucose utilisation were indeed at their highest.
They also found that the protein responsible for the entry of fatty acids into the mitochondria only peaks at the 18th hour and again, tests showed fat processing was optimal at the same time.
“In other words, the outcome depends not only on what you eat but also on when you eat. If we could be more aware of the timing of our cellular activities, we might be able to take advantage of various nutrients in a healthier way,” Asher explained in a paper published in the journal of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.