Working night shifts can lead to brain changes that make people feel hungry, according to new research.
The University of Bristol-led investigation looked at how misalignment of the body clock significantly alters the brain’s regulation of hormones that control appetite.
The experiment found those in a “jet-lagged” group consumed nearly five times more food than a control group, illustrating how when normal bodily rhythms are disrupted, this in turn also disrupts normal appetite regulation.
Dr. Becky Conway-Campbell, a research fellow at Bristol Medical School, said: “For people working throughout the night, a reversed body clock can play havoc with their health.
“We hope our findings also provide new insight into how chronic stress and sleep disruption leads to caloric overconsumption.”
Prevalent in night shift workers, researchers sought to understand how ‘circadian misalignment’ — a phenomenon commonly associated with ‘jet-lag’ whereby the body’s biological clock is disrupted — affects the hormones responsible for regulating appetite.
In an experiment using animal models, comprising a control group and an out-of-phase ‘jet-lagged’ group, it was discovered that rats in the control group ate 88.4 percent of their daily intake during their active phase, and only 11.6 percent during their inactive phase.
In contrast, the ‘jet-lagged’ group consumed 53.8 percent of their daily calories during their inactive phase without an increase in activity during that time. equating to nearly five times more (460 percent) than what the control group consumed during the inactive phase.
Co-author Dr. Benjamin Flynn said: “This is further evidence of how phase shift ‘jet-lag’ affects feeding behaviors and neuronal gene expression – data important for shift work co-morbidity research.”
Dr. Conway Campbell added: “For those who are working night shifts long-term, we recommend they try to maintain daylight exposure, cardiovascular exercise and mealtimes at regulated hours.
“However, internal brain messages to drive increased appetite are difficult to override with ‘discipline’ or ‘routine’ so we are currently designing studies to assess rescue strategies and pharmacological intervention drugs.”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker