A cure for jet lag? Change the time you eat

This might be the key to defeating post long-haul exhaustion

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Beating dreaded jet lag could be as simple as changing the time you eat, suggests a new study.

And the results could also help people who struggle with the effects of shiftwork.

See also: Three ways to fight jet lag

See also: Will this device get rid of your jet lag?

In the first human trial of its kind, researchers discovered that delaying meal times delays the circadian rhythm of sugar in the blood.

They say their findings, published in the journal Current Biology, could prove to be a breakthrough in alleviating symptoms of jet lag and shift work.

During the innovative study, Dr Jonathan Johnston and Dr Sophie Wehrens, of the University of Surrey, examined the impact of altering meal times on the circadian rhythms of 10 volunteers.

Credits: PA

Delaying meal times delays the circadian rhythm of sugar in the blood

Circadian rhythms are approximate 24-hour changes governed by the body's internal clocks and determine many processes in the body.

Volunteers were provided with three meals: breakfast, lunch and dinner.

In the first phase of the study, the first meal was provided 30 minutes after waking, with later meals at subsequent five hour intervals whilst in the second phase each meal was delayed by five hours after waking.

Immediately after each phase, sequential blood samples and fat biopsies were taken from each volunteer in specialised lab conditions that allow measurement of internal circadian rhythms.

The researchers discovered that postponing meal times by five hours delayed rhythms of blood sugar by the same time frame.

Credits: Getty

Circadian rhythms determine many processes in the body

They said the findings show that mealtimes synchronise internal clocks that control rhythms of blood sugar concentration.

The researchers indicated that people who struggle with circadian rhythm disorders, including shift workers and those on long haul flights, might consider timed meals to help resynchronise their body clocks.

But they were surprised to find that the delay in meal times didn't affect insulin or triglyceride (fat) levels in the blood, indicating that blood glucose rhythms can be governed by separate circadian clocks to these other key aspects of metabolism.

Lead investigator Dr Johnston said: "It has been shown that regular jet lag and shift work have adverse effects on the body, including metabolic disturbances.

"Altering meal times can reset the body clocks regulating sugar metabolism in a drug free way.

"This will help us design feeding regimes to reduce the risk of developing health problems such as obesity and cardiovascular disease in people with disturbed circadian rhythms."

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