In the modern world, every other person has a fixed routine. It is also highly likely that one day’s meal timings and sleeping hours would not match the ones on the next day. People adjust every day in accordance with their needs and demands of work or school.
Breaking set routines on a daily basis and messing with biological clocks may have many unwanted consequences on the health. This can be done in various ways. For example, taking night shifts, consuming meals later than usual, and traveling for a long time.
Does this sound like you? Nearly every other adult follows such a lifestyle in order to accommodate work, family, school and social life altogether. Consequently, they end up meddling with their circadian rhythms.
Circadian rhythms are naturally arranged by the body clocks in order to control all of the automated bodily functions. Issues arising with circadian rhythms means potential dangerous health problems in the future.
Recent research held at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, CA, and Nagoya University in Japan show this very link in humans.
Putting it precisely, it suggests that dysregulation in the circadian rhythms of a person may lead to a higher probability of various diseases in the future. The paper was published in the journal PNAS.
How Can Body Clocks Cause Diseases?
Disruptions in circadian rhythms were known to be linked with poor health in people. However, how they may lead to conditions was not well explained. The new study in PNAS explains this by highlighting a protein that plays a big role in this happening.
The protein – known as HNF4A – is found in the nuclei of the cell. It is also responsible for developing the liver, large intestine, and the kidneys in early stages.
The researchers started by looking at the cells present in the colon and liver from both human tissue and mice.
They noted that HNF4A protein acts with circadian rhythms of these cells in particular, complicated ways and blocks the productions of two other proteins – CLOCK and BMAL1. Both of these proteins typically help in proper regulation of circadian rhythms in mammals.
It was found that HNF4A protein works in consonance with the signals from within the cells. Consequently, its action on other proteins is also dependent on these signals.
So, if the activity of this proteins becomes abnormal, it starts to affect the metabolic processes within the body. As a result, the body becomes more prone to chronic health conditions.
One of the authors of the study Steve Kay, Provost Professor of Neurology, Biomedical Engineering and Biological Sciences at the University of Southern California, says:
“So, in the liver, we looked at tissue-specific proteins and found that HNF4A is tied to the circadian clock, is regulated by the clock and cycles with the clock and, in turn, regulates the clock. That’s the new finding here, and it’s a big jump forward.”
What Did the Study Conclude?
According to the first author of the study Meng Qu, these findings suggest clock disruption may be the main connection between circadian rhythm and development of health conditions.
She adds that modern way of life are characterized by irregular circadian rhythms. This can lead to disturbances in many mechanisms in the body including those in which HNF4A is involved.
The study successfully pinpoints how bad routines and busy lifestyles can pose a potential long-term threat to the health of people. In addition, it paves the way for further research on how biological clocks and their functioning can affect the health of a person.