One in three Americans will most likely develop diabetes by 2050 if current trends continue. You have heard that a good diet, regular exercise, and modest weight loss can reduce your risk for diabetes. Now here is something you don’t hear about. Regularity in schedule is one lost key to diabetes prevention.
Yes, indeed: regularity counts! Why? Both insulin resistance and decreased beta-cell function precede and are also characteristic of type 2 diabetes. Cycles of light and darkness govern our biological clocks. These biological clocks regulate hormones and enzymes involved in the body’s metabolism. Scientists have now discovered that the pancreas has its own molecular clock and that endocrine cells in diabetic-prone and diabetic individuals can indeed be sensitive to disturbances in their circadian (24 hour) rhythm.
Beta cells in the pancreas produce insulin that facilitates the entry of glucose and other nutrients into the cells. Just ten days of acute disturbance of the circadian (24-hour) rhythm in diabetic-prone rodents led to impaired ability of their bodies to handle glucose, an increase in fasting blood glucose, and diminished beta cell functioning in the pancreas. Ten weeks of disturbed circadian rhythm produced actual beta-cell destruction, decreased beta cell mass in the pancreas, and reduced beta-cell efficiency. Because irregular schedules from shift work, sleep loss, jet lag, or a nocturnal lifestyle disrupt circadian rhythms, they may increase the risk for developing full-blown diabetes in diabetic-prone individuals.
Four caveats are in order here:
- A high fat diet or elevated triglyceride level (blood fats) can adversely affect one’s daily rhythms.
- A high fat diet also alters the clock-controlled genes in fat cells and consequently disrupts the efficiency of these cells to dispose of fuel appropriately.
- Periodic short fasting can help reset the pancreas’ circadian rhythm.
- An irregular schedule promotes inflammation inside the body. Inflammation fuels diabetic complications and increases the diabetic person’s risk for atherosclerosis and cancer.
May we suggest that a regular schedule is an important strategy needed in reducing one’s risk for type 2 diabetes?
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- Bass, J., Circadian Rhythms and Metabolic Syndrome: From Experimental Genetics to Human Disease, Circulation Research. 2010; 106: 447-462.
- Gale, JE, et al., Disruption of Circadian Rhythms Accelerates Development of Diabetes through Pancreatic Beta-Cell Loss and Dysfunction, J Biol Rhythms 2011 Oct: 25(5) 423-433.