Circadian Rhythms in Diet-Induced Obesity

Adv Exp Med Biol. 2017;960:19-52. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-48382-5_2.


The biological clocks of the circadian timing system coordinate cellular and physiological processes and synchronizes these with daily cycles, feeding patterns also regulates circadian clocks. The clock genes and adipocytokines show circadian rhythmicity. Dysfunction of these genes are involved in the alteration of these adipokines during the development of obesity. Food availability promotes the stimuli associated with food intake which is a circadian oscillator outside of the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). Its circadian rhythm is arranged with the predictable daily mealtimes. Food anticipatory activity is mediated by a self-sustained circadian timing and its principal component is food entrained oscillator. However, the hypothalamus has a crucial role in the regulation of energy balance rather than food intake. Fatty acids or their metabolites can modulate neuronal activity by brain nutrient-sensing neurons involved in the regulation of energy and glucose homeostasis. The timing of three-meal schedules indicates close association with the plasma levels of insulin and preceding food availability. Desynchronization between the central and peripheral clocks by altered timing of food intake and diet composition can lead to uncoupling of peripheral clocks from the central pacemaker and to the development of metabolic disorders. Metabolic dysfunction is associated with circadian disturbances at both central and peripheral levels and, eventual disruption of circadian clock functioning can lead to obesity. While CLOCK expression levels are increased with high fat diet-induced obesity, peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR) alpha increases the transcriptional level of brain and muscle ARNT-like 1 (BMAL1) in obese subjects. Consequently, disruption of clock genes results in dyslipidemia, insulin resistance and obesity. Modifying the time of feeding alone can greatly affect body weight. Changes in the circadian clock are associated with temporal alterations in feeding behavior and increased weight gain. Thus, shift work is associated with increased risk for obesity, diabetes and cardio-vascular diseases as a result of unusual eating time and disruption of circadian rhythm.

Keywords: Adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK); Brain and muscle ARNT-like 1 (BMAL1); Calorie restriction; Circadian rhythm; Clock genes; Cryptochrome circadian clock 1 (CRY1); Mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR); N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors (NMDAR); Nicotinamide phosphoryl-transferase; Obesity; Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR); Resistin; Suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN).

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology*
  • Eating / physiology*
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology
  • Food
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamus / physiology
  • Obesity / physiopathology*