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A gene that disrupts your body's 'clock' could explain overeating


Late-night snackers or overeaters might be suffering from a genetic defect that causes them to experience hunger, according to scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.

A specific pair of genes, PER1 and PER2, normally keep a person's eating schedule in sync with their sleeping and waking cycle, or circadian rythym. Yet, when mutated, they might contribute to night-eating syndrome.

"We really never expected that we would be able to decouple the sleep-wake cycle and the eating cycle, especially with a simple mutation," Satchidananda Panda, senior study author and an associate professor in Salk's Regulatory Biology Laboratory, said in a press release. "It opens up a whole lot of future questions about how these cycles are regulated."

Mice show metabolism changes

For the study, researchers bred mice to either have a mutated PER1 or PER2 gene. Those with the PER1 defect tended to eat earlier than other mice, which caused them to wake up and start eating before their sleep cycle was finished. Mice without the PER1 defect, however, didn't show changes in their sleeping cycles.

"For a long time, people discounted night eating syndrome as not real," Panda said. "These results in mice suggest that it could actually be a genetic basis for the syndrome."

The researchers don't yet know if humans with night eating disorder might have mutations in PER1.

Findings of the study are published in Cell Reports.

Source: University Herald
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