Jet lag is a temporary sleep disorder characterized by extreme tiredness, aches and pains, and general difficulty thinking and functioning. And if that isn’t bad enough to dissuade you from flying cost-to-coast, it gets worse. Now researchers have found that jet lag causes weight gain.
We are a people in motion. We are on the go and have an affinity for travel. Planes get us from here to there ASAP! But the challenge of overcoming the distance barrier by taking flight has its own problems: Researchers also found jet leg may be a cause of obesity and diabetes for frequent flyers.
How Flying May Cause Weight Gain
According to Israeli researchers, changing time zones can mess with your biological circadian clock — that’s the 24-hour cycle all living things follow based on light and darkness. Their study published in the journal Cell found that even gut microbes have circadian rhythms controlled by this biological clock. And when this clock is disrupted changes occur in this bacteria that live in our gut that potentially causes weight gain.
Obviously there’s no light inside our stomachs. So, the scientists think the bacteria adjust their circadian cycle to correspond not to light but to our meal times. Read: Are Gut Bugs Keeping You Fat?
Experiment Causes Weight Gain in Mice
Experiments in which usually nocturnal mice were kept awake during the day created a state equivalent to jet lag from an eight-hour time difference in human beings. The result was that the gut microbes of these mice changed in composition and function, and lost their circadian rhythm. This caused less efficient performance for promoting cell growth and DNA repair. And the mice were more susceptible to weight gain, obesity and diabetes.
When their DNA was transferred into germ-free mice, the risk for disease among this sterile bunch increased showing that microbes cause the susceptibility. Read: Trust Your Gut? Bacteria and Weight Gain.
Possible Hidden Cause of Weight Gain in Humans
In order to test if jet lag causes weight gain in humans, researcher Eran Elinav, MD PhD studied two people traveling from the United States to Israel, a circumstance that produced an eight hour jet lag similar to the mice.
When the microbes of the two individuals were tested it was found that the composition of their microbes had changed in ways that were very similar to the mice. When the microbes from the two subjects were then transferred to mice, the point where the jet lag peaked promoted greater obesity and glucose intolerance. Read: Beat Belly Fat by Eating Right.
The gut microbes in the humans returned to normal two weeks after the flight and when transferred to mice there was no longer increased obesity and glucose intolerance. These findings suggest that frequent flyers may not be able to give their bodies ample time for a return to normal function and could run an increased risk for diabetes and obesity.
The study also suggests that sticking to your normal meal times rather than adapting them for your current time zone could be helpful. By keeping your eating habits as routine as possible, you may avoid disrupting the circadian rhythm of your gut microbiome and prevent weight gain. Check out natural remedies to combat jet lag from Collective Evolution.
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