Restricted eating and gene expression

The authors of a study found that 70 percent of mouse genes respond to time-restricted eating.

Satchidananda Panda, PhD – Salk Institute for Biological Studies

“By changing the timing of food, we were able to change the gene expression not just in the gut or in the liver, but also in thousands of genes in the brain,” the authors say.

Nearly 40 percent of genes in the adrenal gland, hypothalamus, and pancreas were affected by time-restricted eating. These organs are important for hormonal regulation. Hormones coordinate functions in different parts of the body and brain, and hormonal imbalance is implicated in many diseases from diabetes to stress disorders. The results offer guidance to how time-restricted eating may help manage these diseases.

Interestingly, not all sections of the digestive tract were affected equally. While genes involved in the upper two portions of the small intestine — the duodenum and jejunum — were activated by time-restricted eating, the ileum, at the lower end of the small intestine, was not. This finding could open a new line of research to study how jobs with shiftwork, which disrupts our 24-hour biological clock (called the circadian rhythm) impact digestive diseases and cancers. Previous research by Panda’s team showed that time-restricted eating improved the health of firefighters, who are typically shift workers.

The researchers also found that time-restricted eating aligned the circadian rhythms of multiple organs of the body.

“Circadian rhythms are everywhere in every cell,” says Panda. “We found that time-restricted eating synchronized the circadian rhythms to have two major waves: one during fasting, and another just after eating. We suspect this allows the body to coordinate different processes.”

Next, Panda’s team will take a closer look at the effects of time-restricted eating on specific conditions or systems implicated in the study, such as atherosclerosis, which is a hardening of the arteries that is often a precursor to heart disease and stroke, as well as chronic kidney disease.

Other authors include Shaunak Deota, Terry Lin, April Williams, Hiep Le, Hugo Calligaro, Ramesh Ramasamy, and Ling Huang of Salk; and Amandine Chaix of the University of Utah.

The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health (grants CA258221, DK115214, CA014195, and AG065993) and the Wu-Tsai Human Performance Alliance.

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