Circadian metabolism in the light of evolution

Endocr Rev. 2015 Jun;36(3):289-304. doi: 10.1210/er.2015-1007. Epub 2015 Apr 30.


Circadian rhythm, or daily oscillation, of behaviors and biological processes is a fundamental feature of mammalian physiology that has developed over hundreds of thousands of years under the continuous evolutionary pressure of energy conservation and efficiency. Evolution has fine-tuned the body's clock to anticipate and respond to numerous environmental cues in order to maintain homeostatic balance and promote survival. However, we now live in a society in which these classic circadian entrainment stimuli have been dramatically altered from the conditions under which the clock machinery was originally set. A bombardment of artificial lighting, heating, and cooling systems that maintain constant ambient temperature; sedentary lifestyle; and the availability of inexpensive, high-calorie foods has threatened even the most powerful and ancient circadian programming mechanisms. Such environmental changes have contributed to the recent staggering elevation in lifestyle-influenced pathologies, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, depression, obesity, and diabetes. This review scrutinizes the role of the body's internal clocks in the hard-wiring of circadian networks that have evolved to achieve energetic balance and adaptability, and it discusses potential therapeutic strategies to reset clock metabolic control to modern time for the benefit of human health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Brain / physiology
  • Circadian Clocks / physiology*
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology*
  • Environment*
  • Humans