PHILADELPHIA - Dieticians will tell you it isn't healthy to eat late at night: it's a recipe for weight gain. In fruit flies, at least, there's another consequence: reduced fertility.
That's the conclusion of a new study this week in Cell Metabolism by researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, in which they manipulated circadian rhythms in fruit flies and measured the affect on egg-laying capacity.
Lead author Amita Sehgal, PhD, John Herr Musser Professor of Neuroscience, stresses, though, that what is true in flies grown in a lab does not necessarily hold for humans, and any potential link between diet and reproduction would have to be independently tested.
"I wouldn't say eating at the wrong time of the day makes people less fertile, though that is the implication," says Sehgal, who is also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. "I would say that eating at the wrong time of the day has deleterious consequences for physiology."
It's All Connected
Many aspects of animal biology cycle over the course of a day. Sleep and wakefulness, activity and rest, body temperature, and more, all fluctuate in a pattern called a circadian rhythm. Disruption of these rhythms has been shown to negatively affect physiology. Shift workers, for instance, often suffer from psychological and metabolic issues that colleagues on normal hours do not. Rodents with disrupted circadian rhythms are more likely to develop obesity.
For a while, Sehgal explains, researchers believed animals had a single master molecular clock, located in the brain, that controlled activity throughout the body. In recent years, however, they have come to understand that some individual organs also have their own, independent clocks, like townspeople who wear a wristwatch and keep it synchronized with the clock in city hall.
The mammalian liver is one organ that has its own independent clock. In 2008,
|Contact: Karen Kreeger|
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine