Washington: Researchers have discovered a protein that is critical in resetting the `food clock` if your eating habits change, a finding that may explain the molecular basis of diabetes, obesity and other metabolic syndromes.
People who are jet-lagged, people who work graveyard shifts and plain-old late-night snackers risk upsetting the body`s `food clock`.
`Food clock` is a collection of interacting genes and molecules known technically as the food-entrainable oscillator, which keeps the human body on a metabolic even keel.
Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), revealed how `food clock` works on a molecular level.
"The work has implications for understanding the molecular basis of diabetes, obesity and other metabolic syndromes because a desynchronised food clock may serve as part of the pathology underlying these disorders," said lead researcher Louis Ptacek.
The team found that a protein called PKCy is critical in resetting the food clock if our eating habits change.
The study discovered that the food clock works on a genetic level as the PKCy protein binds to another molecule called BMAL and stabilises it, which shifts the clock in time.
The study showed that normal laboratory mice given food only during their regular sleeping hours will adjust their food clock over time and begin to wake up from their slumber, and run around in anticipation of their new mealtime.
But mice lacking the PKCy gene are not able to respond to changes in their meal time - instead sleeping right through it.
"Understanding the molecular mechanism of how eating at the wrong time of the day desynchronises the clocks in our body can facilitate the development of better treatments for disorders associated with night-eating syndrome, shift work and jet lag," he added.
In most organisms, biological clockworks are governed by a master clock, referred to as the "circadian oscillator", which keeps track of time and coordinates our biological processes with the rhythm of a 24-hour cycle of day and night.
Scientists have uncovered many genes recently whose cycles are tied to the clock and discovered that in mammals it is controlled by a tiny spot in the brain known as the "superchiasmatic nucleus".
Scientists also know that in addition to the master clock, our bodies have other clocks operating in parallel throughout the day. One of these is the food clock, which is not tied to one specific spot in the brain but rather multiple sites throughout the body.