A science study suggests that the nerves in the stomach act as a circadian clock, limiting food intake to specific times of the day, and acting as a type of ‘stomach clock’.
For the study, a research team examined how the nerves in the stomach respond to stretch, which occurs as a consequence of food intake, at three-hourly intervals across one day. The research also suggests that the nerves are responsible for letting the brain know how much food we have eaten and when to stop eating.
Further study has also indicated that nerves in the gut are at their least sensitive at time periods associated with being awake. This means more food can be consumed before we feel full at times of high activity, when more energy is required. However, with a change in the day-night cycle to a period associated with sleeping, the nerves in the stomach become more sensitive to stretch, signaling fullness to the brain quicker and thus limiting food intake. This is perhaps another reason why things like nightshift work can be bad for people.
Whilst the findings are interesting, so far they relate to laboratory studies and not to trials involving people.
The research was carried out at the University of Adelaide. The findings have been published in The Journal of Neuroscience. The paper is titled “Circadian Variation in Gastric Vagal Afferent Mechanosensitivity”.