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Chronobiology and meal times: internal and external factors

  • Jim Waterhouse (a1), D. Minors (a2), G. Atkinson (a1) and D. Benton (a3)

Although homeostatic mechanisms remain of utmost importance, rhythmic changes are present also. The main ones have a period of 24 h (circadian) or about 2–3 h (ultradian). Circadian rhythms are derived from a body clock, found in the base of the brain, and from the pattern of our sleep wake cycle, including activity and meal times. These rhythms promote the regular changes between an active wake period and a recuperative sleep period. Ultradian rhythms are also widespread and reflect external (lifestyle) and internal factors. The internal factors include biochemical need and some sort of oscillator; but details of how many oscillators, and exactly where they are, remain to be established. Food intake, appetite, digestion and metabolism have been shown to illustrate these principles. Moreover, these principles become important when special circumstances exist as far as meal times are concerned; the particular diffculties of night workers is a good example.

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British Journal of Nutrition
  • ISSN: 0007-1145
  • EISSN: 1475-2662
  • URL: /core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition
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