Our stomach’s biological clock tells us how much to eat

December 8, 2013 in Nutrition Topics in the News, Weight Management

Our stomach’s biological clock tells us how much to eat

Researchers from the University of Adelaide have discovered the first evidence that nerves in the stomach act as a biological clock, limiting food intake to specific times of the day.

In the University's Nerve-Gut Research Laboratory, scientists investigated how the nerves in the stomach respond to stretch, which occurs as a consequence of food intake, at three-hourly intervals during one day.

"These nerves are responsible for letting the brain know how much food we have eaten and when to stop eating," said the lead author of the paper.

They found the nerves in the gut are least sensitive at time periods associated with being awake. This means more food can be consumed before we feel full at times of high activity, when more energy is required.

However, later in the day with time periods associated with sleeping, the nerves in the stomach become more sensitive to stretch, signaling fullness to the brain quicker and thus limiting food intake. This variation repeats every 24 hours in a circadian manner, with the nerves acting as a clock to coordinate food intake with energy requirements, the lead researcher said.

The researchers believe the same nerve response variations occur in human stomachs, with the gut nerves being less sensitive to fullness during the day and more sensitive at night.

These findings could lead to further discoveries about how changes in people's circadian clocks affect their eating habits.

Source: Journal of Neuroscience, December 2013.

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