Differential roles of breakfast and supper in rats of a daily three-meal schedule upon circadian regulation and physiology

Chronobiol Int. 2011 Dec;28(10):890-903. doi: 10.3109/07420528.2011.622599.


The timing of meals has been suggested to play an important role in circadian regulation and metabolic health. Three meals a day is a well-established human feeding habit, which in today's lifestyle may or may not be followed. The aim of this study was to test whether the absence of breakfast or supper significantly affects the circadian system and physiological function. The authors developed a rat model for their daily three meals study, whereby animals were divided into three groups (three meals, TM; no first meal, NF; no last meal, NL) all fed with the same amount of food every day. Rats in the NF group displayed significantly decreased levels of plasma triglyceride (TG), total cholesterol (TC), high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), and glucose in the activity phase, accompanied by delayed circadian phases of hepatic peripheral clock and downstream metabolic genes. Rats in the NL group showed lower concentration of plasma TC, HDL-C, and glucose in the rest phase, plus reduced adipose tissue accumulation and body weight gain. Real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis indicated an attenuated rhythm in the food-entraining pathway, including down-regulated expression of the clock genes Per2, Bmal1, and Rev-erbα, which may further contribute to the delayed and decreased expression of FAS in lipogenesis in this group. Our findings are consistent with the conclusion that the daily first meal determines the circadian phasing of peripheral clocks, such as in the liver, whereas the daily last meal tightly couples to lipid metabolism and adipose tissue accumulation, which suggests differential physiological effects and function of the respective meal timings.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Glucose
  • CLOCK Proteins / genetics
  • CLOCK Proteins / metabolism
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology*
  • Eating / physiology*
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation / physiology
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Lipid Metabolism
  • Lipids / blood
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar


  • Blood Glucose
  • Lipids
  • CLOCK Proteins
  • Glucose