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Diabetes Obes Metab. 2018 Oct;20(10):2481-2485. doi: 10.1111/dom.13391. Epub 2018 Jul 2.

Differential effects of the circadian system and circadian misalignment on insulin sensitivity and insulin secretion in humans.

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Medical Chronobiology Program, Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders, Departments of Medicine and Neurology, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts.
Division of Sleep Medicine, Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts.
Department of Information Engineering, University of Padova, Padova, Italy.


Glucose tolerance is lower at night and higher in the morning. Shift workers, who often eat at night and experience circadian misalignment (i.e. misalignment between the central circadian pacemaker and the environmental/behavioural cycles), have an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. To determine the separate and relative impacts of the circadian system, behavioural/environmental cycles, and their interaction (i.e. circadian misalignment) on insulin sensitivity and β-cell function, the oral minimal model was used to quantitatively assess the major determinants of glucose control in 14 healthy adults using a randomized, cross-over design with two 8-day laboratory protocols. Both protocols involved 3 baseline inpatient days with habitual sleep/wake cycles, followed by 4 inpatient days with the same nocturnal bedtime (circadian alignment) or with 12-hour inverted behavioural/environmental cycles (circadian misalignment). The data showed that circadian phase and circadian misalignment affect glucose tolerance through different mechanisms. While the circadian system reduces glucose tolerance in the biological evening compared to the biological morning mainly by decreasing both dynamic and static β-cell responsivity, circadian misalignment reduced glucose tolerance mainly by lowering insulin sensitivity, not by affecting β-cell function.


beta cell function; circadian system; insulin resistance; type 2 diabetes

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