Chrononutrition: to Eat According to Your Biological Clock

9 March, 2021 ,

Have you ever heard of Chrononutrition?

Developed in 1986 by Jean-Robert Rapin, a professor of pharmacology, and doctor-nutritionist Alain Delabos, chrononutrition is a diet adapted to the biological clock of individuals. Thus, what we eat, and when we eat it, would be just as important.

Although chrononutrition is becoming increasingly popular, the scientific evidence is not yet conclusive to support its recommendation.

What is chrononutrition?

Chrononutrition is interested in the relationship between nutrition and the circadian rhythm of our body to which almost all of the functions of our body are subjected.

This rhythm is managed by our main internal clock which is located in the brain, whose synchronization is mainly determined by sunlight.

This internal clock has a periodicity of around 24 hours and governs several physiological processes such as food intake, hormone production, appetite, body temperature and sleep. It sends a signal when it is time to go to bed or when it is the time to eat. This rhythm can be disturbed by certain external elements, such as light, food intake, temperature and physical activity.

It should be noted that the main internal clock does its work accompanied by several peripheral clocks which are present in all organs and tissues with essential functions: heart, lung, liver, muscles, kidneys, retina, and the different areas of the brain.

The objective of chrononutrition is, therefore, to eat according to the natural rhythm of our body and its hormonal and enzymatic secretions.

So, what to eat and when?

According to chrononutrition one should eat:

  • fat and protein in the morning because, at the beginning of the day, the body secretes a lot of lipase and protease.
  • a full meal at noon, composed of protein, low glycemic index carbohydrates, and vegetables since the proteases and amylases are secreted significantly at this precise moment.
  • a snack consisting of carbohydrates (fruit, homemade muffin…) and oleaginous foods to compensate for hypoglycemia that can occur following a spike in blood cortisol levels.
  • a light dinner made with vegetables and lean protein because digestive secretions are low at this time, which greatly slows down the assimilation of food and would promote its

According to chrononutrition, the rhythm of food intake can help synchronize or desynchronize our internal clocks. Thus, a widely distributed allotment, during the day and night, of one’s food intake could desynchronize one’s peripheral clocks and disrupt metabolism. In contrast, studies in mice show that concentrating meals during a part of the day would protect against obesity.

There are different types of people: there are those who easily get up early in the morning and sleep well at night. And there are those who have difficulties getting up in the morning and are more productive in the evening and at night. They are biologically pressured to consume food later in the day and have a lower consumption of fruits and vegetables, a higher consumption of energy drinks, alcoholic beverages, sugary and caffeinated beverages, and a higher energy intake from fats.

So, one may ask: is it the fact they are eating late at night that is problematic or simply the fact that people who tend to eat late at night and snack in the evening/night choose fatter and sweeter food products?

According to chrononutrition it is, therefore, a question of eating the right things at the right time of day to help facilitate the assimilation of nutrients and not their storage. But then what happens when our internal clock is out of balance?

An unbalanced circadian rhythm

Our lifestyle habits, such as working night shifts, sleeping during daylight, or eating at night, can deregulate our circadian rhythm and thus lead to several metabolic reactions that do not usually occur. This is called a time-disturbance. Numerous studies have shown that these disturbances are a risk factor for various metabolic diseases such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal problems and diabetes.

Conclusion

At present, no scientific studies have demonstrated the superiority of a chrononutrition-based diet when compared to other approaches.

Nevertheless, it is important to be careful about what we put on our plate and at what time we consume our food because in the evening and at night our choices are more easily directed towards fatty and sweet food items. In addition, factors other than physiological hunger can make us snack in the evening: emotions, boredom, the desire for a reward… It is therefore important to learn to listen to your signals of hunger and satiety.

If you want to improve your diet, our dietitians are here to accompany you and help you find the heathy eating habits that suit you.

Sources:

1- Oike, Hideaki, Katsutaka Oishi, and Masuko Kobori. “Nutrients, clock genes, and chrononutrition.” Current nutrition reports 3.3 (2014): 204-212.

2- Johnston, Jonathan D. “Physiological responses to food intake throughout the day.” Nutrition research reviews 27.1 (2014): 107-118.

3- Almoosawi, S., et al. “Chrono-nutrition: a review of current evidence from observational studies on global trends in time-of-day of energy intake and its association with obesity.” Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 75.4 (2016): 487-500.

4- Almoosawi, Suzana, et al. “Chronotype: implications for epidemiologic studies on chrono-nutrition and cardiometabolic health.” Advances in Nutrition 10.1 (2019): 30-42.

5- Scheer FA, Hilton MF, Mantzoros CS, Shea SA. “Adverse metabolic and cardiovascular consequences of circadian misalignment”. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 2009;106:4453–8.

6- Tahara, Y., and S. Shibata. “Chronobiology and nutrition.” Neuroscience 253 (2013): 78-88.

8- Garaulet, Marta, and Purificación Gómez-Abellán. “Timing of food intake and obesity: a novel association.” Physiology & behavior 134 (2014): 44-50.

9- Extenso. Et si manger le soir influençait plus le poids? 2014. [Online] https://www.extenso.org/article/et-si-manger-le-soir-influencait-plus-le-poids/ (accessed on March 2021).

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Author

Jennifer Morzier

Jennifer Morzier

Jennifer is a Registered Dietitian graduated from the University of Montreal in December 2018 and is a member of the Ordre professionnel des diététistes du Québec (OPDQ). She believes that the quality of our food choices has a direct impact on our health and energy level. Her goal? To help people improve the quality of what they put in their plates, for their better well-being and greater pleasure.

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