Health & Environment

Timing Is Everything When Eating Fatty Foods

Texas A&M study shows fatty acid palmitate “jet lags” body clocks, which could lead to obesity and diabetes.
By Christina Sumners, Texas A&M Health Science Center April 6, 2016

heart on clockIt makes sense that people who are trying to slim down would avoid fats. But as anyone who has unsuccessfully tried this approach to dieting knows, it’s not quite that simple.

New research from the Texas A&M Health Science Center and Texas A&M AgriLife parses out why saturated fats are “bad”—and suggests that it may all be in the timing.

Circadian clocks, which exist in cells throughout the body, regulate the local timing of important cellular processes necessary for normal functioning and help keep inflammatory responses in check.

“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., professor at the Texas A&M College of Medicine’s Department of Neuroscience and Experimental Therapeutics.

In the short term, inflammation is considered to be protective response to injury or invading bacteria, but the chronic, low-grade inflammation caused by high fat diets contributes to obesity and type 2 diabetes and other inflammation-related disorders like cardiovascular disease, stroke and rheumatoid arthritis.

Now, Earnest and his team have shown that consumption of saturated fats at certain times may “jet lag” internal clocks, as well as the resulting inflammation.

Earnest’s previous work suggested that a high-fat diet alters how our body clocks keep time, particularly in immune cells that mediate inflammation. Earlier findings show that a high fat diet slows down the clocks in immune cells such that they no longer “tell” accurate time. Now, he and his team, including Robert S. Chapkin, Ph.D., Texas A&M Distinguished Professor and deputy director of the Center for Translational Environmental Health Research, have shown that one type of fat in particular—specifically a saturated fatty acid called palmitate, is the big culprit in compromising the accuracy of our body clocks.

Continue reading on Vital Record.

This article by Christina Sumners originally appeared in Vital Record.

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