Circadian Rhythm Disruption by Iron rich Diet

Circadian Rhythm Disruption

Iron messes with your internal clock

Workers on the graveyard shift might be better off not eating iron rich foods at night to avoid circadian rhythm disruption leading to poor blood sugar control.

The circadian rhythm is your natural day and night cycle. It’s maintained by several factors, one that affects the clock in the brain is  the hormone melatonin, while the liver’s circadian clock are regulates by food. During sleep, this clock helps in keeping an even blood sugar level that spikes just before you wake up. If the liver “clock” is out of sync with your brain “clock” you’re at higher risk for many diseases. Studies have shown that workers on graveyard shifts have higher risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer. So you should always strive to avoid circadian rhythm disruption.

Circadian Rhythm Disruption in the liver

In the study, the authors Mcclain and Simcox looked closer at what factors control the setting of the liver’s circadian clock. They fed mice iron as a part of their normal eating cycle and found that this increased the concentration of heme, the molecule that carries oxygen in red blood cells. When heme binds to circadian protein-a, it increases the protein’s activity, the increased activity makes the liver optimally control blood sugar.

This increased activity of this protein is helpful when it occurs during the normal day-night cycle. If the circadian clocks in the brain and the liver is out of sync, when this circadian rhythm disruption happens it can cause abnormal blood sugar levels. So in graveyard shift workers, eating a meal with plenty of iron could lead to future poor health.

Mcclain and Simcox prompts for more research before definite diet recommendations are proposed to shift workers since a low iron diet also can result in poor health. The takeaway from this study is that you should avoid circadian rhythm disruption if you can.

Image credit: Paul Simpson via flickr.com, CC BY 2.0.