The circadian timing system governs daily biological rhythms, synchronising physiology and behaviour to the temporal world. External time cues, including the light-dark cycle and timing of food intake, provide daily signals for entrainment of the central, master circadian clock in the hypothalamic suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN), and of metabolic rhythms in peripheral tissues, respectively. Chrono-nutrition is an emerging field building on the relationship between temporal eating patterns, circadian rhythms, and metabolic health. Evidence from both animal and human research demonstrates adverse metabolic consequences of circadian disruption. Conversely, a growing body of evidence indicates that aligning food intake to periods of the day when circadian rhythms in metabolic processes are optimised for nutrition may be effective for improving metabolic health. Circadian rhythms in glucose and lipid homeostasis, insulin responsiveness and sensitivity, energy expenditure, and postprandial metabolism, may favour eating patterns characterised by earlier temporal distribution of energy. This review details the molecular basis for metabolic clocks, the regulation of feeding behaviour, and the evidence for meal timing as an entraining signal for the circadian system in animal models. The epidemiology of temporal eating patterns in humans is examined, together with evidence from human intervention studies investigating the metabolic effects of morning compared to evening energy intake, and emerging chrono-nutrition interventions such as time-restricted feeding. Chrono-nutrition may have therapeutic application for individuals with and at-risk of metabolic disease and convey health benefits within the general population.
Keywords: circadian; clock gene; energy balance; meal timing; metabolism; time-restricted feeding.
© 2020 International Society for Neurochemistry.