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Unlocking the gut clock: How circadian rhythms and gut microbiota team up to affect human health

In a review article published within the journal Nutrition, Metabolism, and Cardiovascular Diseases, scientists have provided an summary of recent studies investigating the association between circadian rhythms, gut microbiota, and food plan and the collective impact of this association on general health.

Review: Circadian rhythms, gut microbiota, and food plan: possible implications for health. Image Credit: T. L. Furrer / Shutterstock


Chrono-nutrition is defined as the connection between meal timing, circadian rhythms, and metabolic health. This particular field of nutrition has gained immense popularity recently due to the significant impact of circadian rhythms on the host’s metabolic processes and gut microbiota. Circadian rhythms check with a series of endogenous oscillators generated by the circadian biological clocks that create a link between internal physiological processes and the external environment.

A substantial proportion of total gut microbiota composition fluctuates rhythmically throughout the day. Furthermore, the gut microbiota itself synchronizes the circadian biological clocks of the host through different signaling pathways. These observations indicate that there could be crosstalk between host circadian rhythms and gut microbiota and that dietary patterns and timings might play a vital role on this interplay.

Interplay between food plan, circadian rhythms, and gut microbiota

Every aspect of dietary habits, including meal timing, frequency and regularity, and food plan quality, collectively play a job in modulating the crosstalk between circadian rhythms and gut microbiota.

Meal timing

The central circadian clock positioned within the brain is regulated by the sun’s light-dark cycle. Nevertheless, since peripheral circadian clocks positioned within the liver, pancreas, and gastrointestinal (GI) tract can’t be directly exposed to light, these clocks are primarily synchronized by dietary components.

Studies have shown that food intake within the late evening can disrupt circadian rhythms (chrono-disturbance) and alter hormone secretion. As well as, each 1-hour increase within the last supper time of the day has been found to associate with metabolic alterations, including increased C-reactive protein, reduced high-density lipoprotein (good cholesterol), and impaired glycemic control and body weight management.

Time-restricted feeding refers back to the consumption of a desired amount of food during a selected time period. This particular dietary pattern has been found to modulate gut microbiota composition, comparable to the induction of useful bacterial communities and the reduction of harmful bacterial communities. Such restriction in food access time is believed to mimic natural eating patterns based on circadian rhythms.  

Meal frequency and regularity

Irregular eating habit is thought to change circadian rhythms by desynchronizing central and peripheral circadian clocks. Many studies have found that folks preferring to eat within the late evening hours have a significantly higher tendency to skip breakfast, lunch, or mid-morning snacks.

A study conducted on horses has found that food intake at a better frequency reduces the abundance of harmful bacterial communities within the gut. Nevertheless, no study has to this point investigated the effect of meal frequency and regularity on human gut microbial composition.

Food plan quality

Chronotype is defined because the body’s natural tendency to be awake or asleep at certain times throughout the day. Evidence suggests that an individual’s chronotype can affect his/her food plan quality.

Although chronotypes appear to haven’t any effect on the intake of macro- and micronutrients, studies have shown that late-evening eaters have a better frequency of sucrose consumption than morning eaters. Furthermore, some studies have shown that evening-time eating habits are related to poor or unhealthy food plan quality.

The Mediterranean food plan is taken into account probably the greatest dietary patterns with many health advantages. This food plan is thought to scale back the chance of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases and all-cause morbidity and mortality. Studies have shown that the morning chronotype is related to higher adherence to the Mediterranean food plan and higher body weight management.

Regarding the connection between food plan quality, gut microbiota, and circadian rhythms, studies have shown that high-fat diets alter gut microbiota chronobiology, resulting in altered production of microbial metabolites and impaired circadian rhythms and metabolism.

Health impact of food plan, gut microbiota, and circadian rhythm crosstalk

Food plan-related chrono-disruption and gut microbiota dysbiosis are related to the event of many chronic diseases, including cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, mental disorders, and certain cancers.

There may be evidence showing that evening chronotype is related to altered cardiometabolic profiles. A significantly altered lipid and glucose metabolism and gut microbiota rhythmicity has been observed amongst evening-time eaters.

Studies have also found an association between evening chronotype and risk of breast, prostate, lung, and colon cancers. It has been hypothesized that circadian disruption increases cancer risk by altering cell proliferation and sleep cycle. Circadian disruptions also can promote carcinogenesis by changing the production of gut microbial metabolites, comparable to short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) and bile acids.

An imbalance between circadian rhythm and gut microbiota can increase the chance of certain mental disorders, including depression. This could possibly be attributable to the altered rhythmicity of neurotransmitters which might be related to mood regulation.

Some recent evidence has suggested that a better abundance of pro-inflammatory microbial communities and a lower abundance of SCFA-producing microbial communities can alter circadian rhythms, which collectively increase the chance of depression.

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