Interdependence of nutrient metabolism and the circadian clock system: Importance for metabolic health.

Research paper by Aleix A Ribas-Latre, Kristin K Eckel-Mahan

Indexed on: 16 Mar '16Published on: 16 Mar '16Published in: Molecular Metabolism


While additional research is needed, a number of large epidemiological studies show an association between circadian disruption and metabolic disorders. Specifically, obesity, insulin resistance, cardiovascular disease, and other signs of metabolic syndrome all have been linked to circadian disruption in humans. Studies in other species support this association and generally reveal that feeding that is not in phase with the external light/dark cycle, as often occurs with night or rotating shift workers, is disadvantageous in terms of energy balance. As food is a strong driver of circadian rhythms in the periphery, understanding how nutrient metabolism drives clocks across the body is important for dissecting out why circadian misalignment may produce such metabolic effects. A number of circadian clock proteins as well as their accessory proteins (such as nuclear receptors) are highly sensitive to nutrient metabolism. Macronutrients and micronutrients can function as zeitgebers for the clock in a tissue-specific way and can thus impair synchrony between clocks across the body, or potentially restore synchrony in the case of circadian misalignment. Circadian nuclear receptors are particularly sensitive to nutrient metabolism and can alter tissue-specific rhythms in response to changes in the diet. Finally, SNPs in human clock genes appear to be correlated with diet-specific responses and along with chronotype eventually may provide valuable information from a clinical perspective on how to use diet and nutrition to treat metabolic disorders.This article presents a background of the circadian clock components and their interrelated metabolic and transcriptional feedback loops, followed by a review of some recent studies in humans and rodents that address the effects of nutrient metabolism on the circadian clock and vice versa. We focus on studies in which results suggest that nutrients provide an opportunity to restore or, alternatively, can destroy synchrony between peripheral clocks and the central pacemaker in the brain as well as between peripheral clocks themselves. In addition, we review several studies looking at clock gene SNPs in humans and the metabolic phenotypes or tendencies associated with particular clock gene mutations.Targeted use of specific nutrients based on chronotype has the potential for immense clinical utility in the future. Macronutrients and micronutrients have the ability to function as zeitgebers for the clock by activating or modulating specific clock proteins or accessory proteins (such as nuclear receptors). Circadian clock control by nutrients can be tissue-specific. With a better understanding of the mechanisms that support nutrient-induced circadian control in specific tissues, human chronotype and SNP information might eventually be used to tailor nutritional regimens for metabolic disease treatment and thus be an important part of personalized medicine's future.