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Saturated Fats May ‘Jet Lag’ Body Clocks, Increase Weight Gain

The consumption of saturated fats at certain times of the day may "jet lag" internal body clocks and lead to diabetes and obesity, according to a new study conducted by Texas A&M University researchers.

The body’s circadian clock keeps inflammation at bay and regulates the local timing of critical cellular processes that are important for day-to-day functioning. Researchers believe the consumption of saturated fats at certain times of the day can disrupt the circadian cycle’s natural rhythms.

"When you disrupt that timing, the 24-hour organization, there are consequences, and this is a contributing factor in many human health disorders, especially metabolic disease," said David Earnest, Ph.D., and lead researcher of the study.

Effects of high-fat diets

According to the researchers, saturated fats alter how the body clock keeps time. One specific type of fat - a saturated fatty acid called palmitate - alters the clock so that some cells in the body reset to different "time zones." When these cells are confused and working out of sync, inflammation can occur. Short-term inflammation protects people against injury or intrusive bacteria. However, consistent and low-grade inflammation caused by a high-fat diet can lead to obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and stroke.

To avoid the ill effects of inflammation, researchers suggest consuming high-fat meals early in the morning and avoiding them late at night.

They also believe that omega-3 fatty acids and additional anti-inflammatory treatments can help to prevent the "time changes" experienced by the body due to saturated fats.

"Our findings suggest that we may be able to control the inflammatory response locally in specific tissues, maximizing the inflammation with timed palmitate treatment to help the body respond to infection or injury," said Earnest. "We could then deliver appropriate treatments at specific times to block the chronic phase and potentially manage inflammation-related diseases."

Source: Texas A&M Health Science Center