The "other" circadian system: food as a Zeitgeber

J Biol Rhythms. 2002 Aug;17(4):284-92. doi: 10.1177/074873040201700402.


It is not surprising that limiting food access to a particular time of day has profound effects on the behavior and physiology of animals. It has been clear for some time that pre-meal behavioral activation, a rise in core temperature, elevated serum corticosterone, and an increase in duodenal disaccharidases are under circadian control and that the observed circadian properties are not abolished by lesions of the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), but the search for the locus of a separate food-entrainable oscillator (FEO) has not been successful. The cloning of circadian clock genes and the discovery that these genes are expressed in many central nervous system structures outside the SCN and in peripheral tissues have led to new strategies for investigating potential loci of an FEO. Recent findings concerning the entrainment of clock gene expression in the central nervous system and in peripheral tissues by periodic food access are presented, and the implications of these findings for a better understanding of a circadian system that entrains to meals, rather than to light, are discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology
  • Circadian Rhythm*
  • Digestive System Physiological Phenomena
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology*