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Obes Rev. 2011 Jan;12(1):14-25. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-789X.2010.00716.x.

Chronobiological aspects of food intake and metabolism and their relevance on energy balance and weight regulation.

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Section of Environmental Physiology, Department of Physiology, Center for Physiology and Pharmacology, Medical University Vienna, Vienna, Austria.


Overweight and obesity are the result of a chronic positive energy balance, and therefore the only effective therapies are a diet which, on the long term, provides lower calories than the daily expended energy and exercise. Because nearly every physiological and biochemical function of the body shows circadian variations it can be suggested that also different chronobiological aspects of food intake, like time of day, meal frequency and regularity, and also circadian desynchronizations like in shift work may affect energy metabolism and weight regulation. The aim of this review is therefore to summarize and discuss studies that have addressed these issues in the past and to also provide an overview about circadian variations of selected aspects of metabolism, gut physiology and also factors that may influence overall energy regulation. The results show that a chronic desynchronization of the circadian system like in shift work and also sleep deprivation can favour the development of obesity. Also, regarding energy balance, a higher meal frequency and regular eating pattern seem to be more advantageous than taking the meals irregularly and seldom. Additional studies are required to conclude whether time of day-dependent food intake significantly influences weight regulation in humans.

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