The findings of a new trial, conducted by the University of Surrey, indicate mealtimes can coordinate the body clock, which controls the natural pattern of blood glucose concentration.
This would suggest people who work different shift patterns or who regularly travel on long haul flights could overcome blood sugar disruption by eating regularly timed meals.
The findings are pertinent to people with type 2 diabetes as they suggest adopting a regular meal time pattern may help to regulate sugar metabolism without using medication.
Lead investigator of the study, Dr Jonathan Johnston from the University of Surrey, said: “This work is important because it demonstrates for the first time that a relatively subtle change of standard human feeding pattern re-synchronizes key metabolic rhythms in the body.”
During the trial, 10 participants were given three meals a day. In the first part of the study, breakfast was served 30 minutes after the person had woken up. Lunch and dinner was then given at five-hour intervals after the first meal of the day.
In the second part of the research, all three meals were delayed by five hours after waking.
Researchers took blood and fat samples to measure the volunteers’ circadian rhythms, which is the name given to the 24-hour changes which are set by the body’s internal body clocks.
Johnston added: “It has been shown that regular jet lag and shift work have adverse effects on the body, including metabolic disturbances.
“Altering meal times can reset the body clocks regulating sugar metabolism in a drug free way. This will help us design feeding regimes to reduce the risk of developing health problems such as obesity and cardiovascular disease in people with disturbed circadian rhythms.”
The findings have been published in the Current Biology journal.