High fat diets disruption of the body clock and metabolism can cause hypertension.

Circadian rhythms over 24 hours govern fundamental biological and physiological processes in almost all organisms. They anticipate environmental changes and adapt certain bodily functions to the appropriate time of day. Disruption of these cycles can seriously affect human health, even causing metabolic distress diseases, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.

Researchers at the University of California (UC), Irvine, have found that high-fat diets generate a profound reorganization of specific metabolic pathways, leading to widespread, and harmful, remodeling of the liver clock. In other words, “the circadian clock is able to reprogram itself depending on a diet’s nutritional content ― which could lead to the identification of novel pharmacological targets for controlled diets.”

The study, which appears in the latest Cell, was led by Paolo Sassone-Corsi, world leading researcher on the genetics of circadian rhythms and UC’s Donald Bren Professor of Biological Chemistry.

According to Sassone-Corsi and colleagues, a high-fat diet reprograms the liver clock through two main mechanisms. One blocks normal cycles by impeding the clock regulator genes called CLOCK: BMAL1. The other, starts a new program of oscillations by activating genes that normally do not oscillate, principally through a factor called PPAR-gamma. Previously implicated in inflammatory responses and the formation of fatty tissue, this factor oscillates with a high-fat diet.

The study authors emphasized that it is specifically the nutritional challenge ― or the caloric intake, not the development of obesity that causes the reprogramming of the clock. Thankfully, the effects of the diet on the clock are rapid and reversible by returning to a balanced, low-fat diet filled with the right nutrients.

The authors will extend their research to the effects of a high-fat diet on other body components, including muscle, fat, the brain, and blood plasma.

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