May 4 (UPI) -- Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine have found that changing the circadian clock in mice can alter how the body responds to diet.
Previous studies have shown that the circadian clock and the microbiome can affect metabolism.
"Organisms can change how their bodies process food in different ways," Dr. Derek O'Neill, a postdoctoral fellow in obstetrics and gynecology at Baylor, said in a press release. "Here, we studied two of those strategies. One involves the circadian clock, the internal mechanism that helps orchestrate body activities such as going to sleep or when to eat. Another aspect that can affect how we metabolize our food is the microbiome, the bacteria that live in the body."
Researchers genetically engineered mice to lack a gene known as the Npas2 gene in the liver, which is involved in circadian rhythm. Then they utilized restricted feeding, disrupting normal feeding hours, to limit the mice to food four hours during the day instead of unrestricted amounts of food for 12 hours at night.
Results showed that altering the circadian clock in the liver results in changes in the gut microbiome. Two groups of mice ate about the same amount of food and lost weight during the restricted feeding test, but the mice lacking the Nasp2 gene lost less weight than normal mice.
"We speculate that our findings may lead to solutions for people who are resistant to losing weight with restricted feeding as well as the opposite situation," said Dr. Kjersti Aagaard, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Baylor. "This is the first scientific mechanistic study that shows clear evidence of a complex interplay between the host circadian system, the microbiome and the host metabolism when under dietary stress."