Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

Physiological responses to food intake throughout the day

  • Jonathan D. Johnston (a1)

Circadian rhythms act to optimise many aspects of our biology and thereby ensure that physiological processes are occurring at the most appropriate time. The importance of this temporal control is demonstrated by the strong associations between circadian disruption, morbidity and disease pathology. There is now a wealth of evidence linking the circadian timing system to metabolic physiology and nutrition. Relationships between these processes are often reciprocal, such that the circadian system drives temporal changes in metabolic pathways and changes in metabolic/nutritional status alter core molecular components of circadian rhythms. Examples of metabolic rhythms include daily changes in glucose homeostasis, insulin sensitivity and postprandial response. Time of day alters lipid and glucose profiles following individual meals whereas, over a longer time scale, meal timing regulates adiposity and body weight; these changes may occur via the ability of timed feeding to synchronise local circadian rhythms in metabolically active tissues. Much of the work in this research field has utilised animal and cellular model systems. Although these studies are highly informative and persuasive, there is a largely unmet need to translate basic biological data to humans. The results of such translational studies may open up possibilities for using timed dietary manipulations to help restore circadian synchrony and downstream physiology. Given the large number of individuals with disrupted rhythms due to, for example, shift work, jet-lag, sleep disorders and blindness, such dietary manipulations could provide widespread improvements in health and also economic performance.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Physiological responses to food intake throughout the day
      Available formats
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Physiological responses to food intake throughout the day
      Available formats
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Physiological responses to food intake throughout the day
      Available formats
The online version of this article is published within an Open Access environment subject to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution licence
Corresponding author
*Corresponding author: Dr Jonathan D. Johnston, fax +44 1483 686401, email
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

1 CSPittendrigh (1993) Temporal organization: reflections of a Darwinian clock-watcher. Annu Rev Physiol 55, 1654.

2Y Ouyang , CR Andersson , T Kondo , et al. (1998) Resonating circadian clocks enhance fitness in cyanobacteria. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 95, 86608664.

4 FKStephan & IZucker (1972) Circadian rhythms in drinking behavior and locomotor activity of rats are eliminated by hypothalamic lesions. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 69, 15831586.

7 GGroos & JHendriks (1982) Circadian rhythms in electrical discharge of rat suprachiasmatic neurones recorded in vitro . Neurosci Lett 34, 283288.

9G Tosini & M Menaker (1996) Circadian rhythms in cultured mammalian retina. Science 272, 419421.

10 KSakamoto , TNagase , HFukui , et al. (1998) Multitissue circadian expression of rat period homolog (rPer2) mRNA is governed by the mammalian circadian clock, the suprachiasmatic nucleus in the brain. J Biol Chem 273, 2703927042.

12 SYamazaki , RNumano , MAbe , et al. (2000) Resetting central and peripheral circadian oscillators in transgenic rats. Science 288, 682685.

13SH Yoo , S Yamazaki , PL Lowrey , et al. (2004) PERIOD2:LUCIFERASE real-time reporting of circadian dynamics reveals persistent circadian oscillations in mouse peripheral tissues. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 101, 53395346.

14A Balsalobre , F Damiola & U Schibler (1998) A serum shock induces circadian gene expression in mammalian tissue culture cells. Cell 93, 929937.

15E Nagoshi , C Saini , C Bauer , et al. (2004) Circadian gene expression in individual fibroblasts: cell-autonomous and self-sustained oscillators pass time to daughter cells. Cell 119, 693705.

16DK Welsh , SH Yoo , AC Liu , et al. (2004) Bioluminescence imaging of individual fibroblasts reveals persistent, independently phased circadian rhythms of clock gene expression. Curr Biol 14, 22892295.

20 DBBoivin , FOJames , AWu , et al. (2003) Circadian clock genes oscillate in human peripheral blood mononuclear cells. Blood 102, 41434145.

22SA Brown , F Fleury-Olela , E Nagoshi , et al. (2005) The period length of fibroblast circadian gene expression varies widely among human individuals. PLoS Biol 3, e338.

25DT Otway , S Mantele , S Bretschneider , et al. (2011) Rhythmic diurnal gene expression in human adipose tissue from individuals who are lean, overweight, and type 2 diabetic. Diabetes 60, 15771581.

26JA Stamenkovic , AH Olsson , CL Nagorny , et al. (2012) Regulation of core clock genes in human islets. Metabolism 61, 978985.

28C Dibner & U Schibler (2010) Albrecht U The mammalian circadian timing system: organization and coordination of central and peripheral clocks. Annu Rev Physiol 72, 517549.

31 SPanda , MPAntoch , BHMiller , et al. (2002) Coordinated transcription of key pathways in the mouse by the circadian clock. Cell 109, 307320.

33S Zvonic , AA Ptitsyn , SA Conrad , et al. (2006) Characterization of peripheral circadian clocks in adipose tissues. Diabetes 55, 962970.

34 ABReddy , NAKarp , ESMaywood , et al. (2006) Circadian orchestration of the hepatic proteome. Curr Biol 16, 11071115.

35 YMinami , TKasukawa , YKakazu , et al. (2009) Measurement of internal body time by blood metabolomics. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 106, 98909895.

36KL Eckel-Mahan , VR Patel , RP Mohney , et al. (2012) Coordination of the transcriptome and metabolome by the circadian clock. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 109, 55415546.

37JM Fustin , M Doi , H Yamada , et al. (2012) Rhythmic nucleotide synthesis in the liver: temporal segregation of metabolites. Cell Rep 1, 341349.

38R Dallmann , AU Viola , L Tarokh , et al. (2012) The human circadian metabolome. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 109, 26252629.

39 JEAng , VRevell , AMann , et al. (2012) Identification of human plasma metabolites exhibiting time-of-day variation using an untargeted liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry metabolomic approach. Chronobiol Int 29, 868881.

40T Kasukawa , M Sugimoto , A Hida , et al. (2012) Human blood metabolite timetable indicates internal body time. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 109, 1503615041.

41 JDJohnston , GFrost & DTOtway (2009) Adipose tissue, adipocytes and the circadian timing system. Obes Rev 10, Suppl. 2, 5260.

43RD Rudic , P McNamara , AM Curtis , et al. (2004) BMAL1 and CLOCK, two essential components of the circadian clock, are involved in glucose homeostasis. PLoS Biol 2, e377.

44 FWTurek , CJoshu , AKohsaka , et al. (2005) Obesity and metabolic syndrome in circadian Clock mutant mice. Science 308, 10431045.

45 SYang , ALiu , AWeidenhammer , et al. (2009) The role of mPer2 clock gene in glucocorticoid and feeding rhythms. Endocrinology 150, 21532160.

46MJ Costa , AY So , K Kaasik , et al. (2011) Circadian rhythm gene period 3 is an inhibitor of the adipocyte cell fate. J Biol Chem 286, 90639070.

47H Cho , X Zhao , M Hatori , et al. (2012) Regulation of circadian behaviour and metabolism by REV-ERB-α and REV-ERB-β. Nature 485, 123127.

48 PYWoon , PJKaisaki , JBraganca , et al. (2007) Aryl hydrocarbon receptor nuclear translocator-like (BMAL1) is associated with susceptibility to hypertension and type 2 diabetes. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 104, 1441214417.

49EM Scott , AM Carter & PJ Grant (2008) Association between polymorphisms in the Clock gene, obesity and the metabolic syndrome in man. Int J Obes 32, 658662.

54 KALamia , KFStorch & CJWeitz (2008) Physiological significance of a peripheral tissue circadian clock. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 105, 1517215177.

55B Marcheva , KM Ramsey , ED Buhr , et al. (2010) Disruption of the clock components CLOCK and BMAL1 leads to hypoinsulinaemia and diabetes. Nature 466, 627631.

57 GKPaschos , SIbrahim , WLSong , et al. (2012) Obesity in mice with adipocyte-specific deletion of clock component Arntl. Nat Med 18, 17681777.

58 FKStephan (2002) The “other” circadian system: food as a Zeitgeber. J Biol Rhythms 17, 284292.

60E Challet , J Mendoza , H Dardente , et al. (2009) Neurogenetics of food anticipation. Eur J Neurosci 30, 16761687.

61KF Storch & CJ Weitz (2009) Daily rhythms of food-anticipatory behavioral activity do not require the known circadian clock. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 106, 68086813.

64M Mieda , SC Williams , JA Richardson , et al. (2006) The dorsomedial hypothalamic nucleus as a putative food-entrainable circadian pacemaker. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 103, 1215012155.

65PM Fuller , J Lu & CB Saper (2008) Differential rescue of light- and food-entrainable circadian rhythms. Science 320, 10741077.

66J Mendoza , P Pevet , MP Felder-Schmittbuhl , et al. (2010) The cerebellum harbors a circadian oscillator involved in food anticipation. J Neurosci 30, 18941904.

67 REMistlberger , RMBuijs , EChallet , et al. (2009) Standards of evidence in chronobiology: critical review of a report that restoration of Bmal1 expression in the dorsomedial hypothalamus is sufficient to restore circadian food anticipatory rhythms in Bmal1-/- mice. J Circ Rhythms 7, 3.

69 GJLandry , BAKent , DFPatton , et al. (2011) Evidence for time-of-day dependent effect of neurotoxic dorsomedial hypothalamic lesions on food anticipatory circadian rhythms in rats. PloS ONE 6, e24187.

70 FDamiola , NLe Minh , NPreitner , et al. (2000) Restricted feeding uncouples circadian oscillators in peripheral tissues from the central pacemaker in the suprachiasmatic nucleus. Genes Dev 14, 29502961.

73C Yoshida , N Shikata , S Seki , et al. (2012) Early nocturnal meal skipping alters the peripheral clock and increases lipogenesis in mice. Nutr Metab 9, 78.

74J Mendoza , C Graff , H Dardente , et al. (2005) Feeding cues alter clock gene oscillations and photic responses in the suprachiasmatic nuclei of mice exposed to a light/dark cycle. J Neurosci 25, 15141522.

75J Mendoza , S Gourmelen , S Dumont , et al. (2012) Setting the main circadian clock of a diurnal mammal by hypocaloric feeding. J Physiol 590, 31553168.

76 JMendoza , KDrevet , PPevet , et al. (2008) Daily meal timing is not necessary for resetting the main circadian clock by calorie restriction. J Neuroendocrinol 20, 251260.

77H Kuroda , Y Tahara , K Saito , et al. (2012) Meal frequency patterns determine the phase of mouse peripheral circadian clocks. Sci Rep 2, 711.

78T Wu , L Sun , F ZhuGe , et al. (2011) Differential roles of breakfast and supper in rats of a daily three-meal schedule upon circadian regulation and physiology. Chronobiol Int 28, 890903.

81DA Schoeller , LK Cella , MK Sinha , et al. (1997) Entrainment of the diurnal rhythm of plasma leptin to meal timing. J Clin Invest 100, 18821887.

82M Itokawa , A Hirao , H Nagahama , et al. (2013) Time-restricted feeding of rapidly digested starches causes stronger entrainment of the liver clock in PER2:LUCIFERASE knock-in mice. Nutr Res 33, 109119.

83A Hirao , Y Tahara , I Kimura , et al. (2009) A balanced diet is necessary for proper entrainment signals of the mouse liver clock. PloS ONE 4, e6909.

84 NLe Minh , FDamiola , FTronche , et al. (2001) Glucocorticoid hormones inhibit food-induced phase-shifting of peripheral circadian oscillators. EMBO J 20, 71287136.

85A Balsalobre , SA Brown , L Marcacci , et al. (2000) Resetting of circadian time in peripheral tissues by glucocorticoid signaling. Science 289, 23442347.

86 CVollmers , SGill , LDiTacchio , et al. (2009) Time of feeding and the intrinsic circadian clock drive rhythms in hepatic gene expression. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 106, 2145321458.

88 LZhang , DAbraham , STLin , et al. (2012) PKCγ participates in food entrainment by regulating BMAL1. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 109, 2067920684.

90MJ Sopowski , SM Hampton , DC Ribeiro , et al. (2001) Postprandial triacylglycerol responses in simulated night and day shift: gender differences. J Biol Rhythms 16, 272276.

91 GCBurdge , AEJones , SMFrye , et al. (2003) Effect of meal sequence on postprandial lipid, glucose and insulin responses in young men. Eur J Clin Nutr 57, 15361544.

92ME Trujillo & PE Scherer (2006) Adipose tissue-derived factors: impact on health and disease. Endocr Rev 27, 762778.

94MK Sinha , JP Ohannesian , ML Heiman , et al. (1996) Nocturnal rise of leptin in lean, obese, and non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus subjects. J Clin Invest 97, 13441347.

96SD Parlee , MC Ernst , S Muruganandan , et al. (2010) Serum chemerin levels vary with time of day and are modified by obesity and tumor necrosis factor-α. Endocrinology 151, 25902602.

100DT Otway , G Frost & JD Johnston (2009) Circadian rhythmicity in murine pre-adipocyte and adipocyte cells. Chronobiol Int 26, 13401354.

101JF Duffy & DJ Dijk (2002) Getting through to circadian oscillators: why use constant routines? J Biol Rhythms 17, 413.

102K Blatter & C Cajochen (2007) Circadian rhythms in cognitive performance: methodological constraints, protocols, theoretical underpinnings. Physiol Behav 90, 196208.

104 LMorgan , JArendt , DOwens , et al. (1998) Effects of the endogenous clock and sleep time on melatonin, insulin, glucose and lipid metabolism. J Endocrinol 157, 443451.

105 FAScheer , MFHilton , CSMantzoros , et al. (2009) Adverse metabolic and cardiovascular consequences of circadian misalignment. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 106, 44534458.

106 HKGonnissen , FRutters , CMazuy , et al. (2012) Effect of a phase advance and phase delay of the 24-h cycle on energy metabolism, appetite, and related hormones. Am J Clin Nutr 96, 689697.

109BO Yildiz , MA Suchard , ML Wong , et al. (2004) Alterations in the dynamics of circulating ghrelin, adiponectin, and leptin in human obesity. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 101, 1043410439.

110S Mantele , DT Otway , B Middleton , et al. (2012) Daily rhythms of plasma melatonin, but not plasma leptin or leptin mRNA, vary between lean, obese and type 2 diabetic men. PLOS ONE 7, e37123.

111J Arendt , S Hampton , J English , et al. (1982) 24-Hour profiles of melatonin, cortisol, insulin, C-peptide and GIP following a meal and subsequent fasting. Clin Endocrinol 16, 8995.

112 DCorbalan-Tutau , JAMadrid , FNicolas , et al. (2014) Daily profile in two circadian markers “melatonin and cortisol” and associations with metabolic syndrome components. Physiol Behav 123, 231235.

113 NBouatia-Naji , ABonnefond , CCavalcanti-Proenca , et al. (2009) A variant near MTNR1B is associated with increased fasting plasma glucose levels and type 2 diabetes risk. Nat Genet 41, 8994.

114V Lyssenko , CL Nagorny , MR Erdos , et al. (2009) Common variant in MTNR1B associated with increased risk of type 2 diabetes and impaired early insulin secretion. Nat Genet 41, 8288.

116 TRonn , JWen , ZYang , et al. (2009) A common variant in MTNR1B, encoding melatonin receptor 1B, is associated with type 2 diabetes and fasting plasma glucose in Han Chinese individuals. Diabetologia 52, 830833.

118H Mulder , CL Nagorny , V Lyssenko , et al. (2009) Melatonin receptors in pancreatic islets: good morning to a novel type 2 diabetes gene. Diabetologia 52, 12401249.

119S Contreras-Alcantara , K Baba & G Tosini (2010) Removal of melatonin receptor type 1 induces insulin resistance in the mouse. Obesity 18, 18611863.

120 TCNogueira , CLellis-Santos , DSJesus , et al. (2011) Absence of melatonin induces night-time hepatic insulin resistance and increased gluconeogenesis due to stimulation of nocturnal unfolded protein response. Endocrinology 152, 12531263.

121 CJMcMullan , ESSchernhammer , EBRimm , et al. (2013) Melatonin secretion and the incidence of type 2 diabetes. JAMA 309, 13881396.

122 CJMcMullan , GCCurhan , ESSchernhammer , et al. (2013) Association of nocturnal melatonin secretion with insulin resistance in nondiabetic young women. Am J Epidemiol 178, 231238.

123H Ando , H Yanagihara , Y Hayashi , et al. (2005) Rhythmic messenger ribonucleic acid expression of clock genes and adipocytokines in mouse visceral adipose tissue. Endocrinology 146, 56315636.

125 HAndo , YOshima , HYanagihara , et al. (2006) Profile of rhythmic gene expression in the livers of obese diabetic KK-A(y) mice. Biochem Biophys Res Comm 346, 12971302.

129MC Hsieh , SC Yang , HL Tseng , et al. (2010) Abnormal expressions of circadian-clock and circadian clock-controlled genes in the livers and kidneys of long-term, high-fat-diet-treated mice. Int J Obes 34, 227239.

130 HYanagihara , HAndo , YHayashi , et al. (2006) High-fat feeding exerts minimal effects on rhythmic mRNA expression of clock genes in mouse peripheral tissues. Chronobiol Int 23, 905914.

131JF Duffy , SW Cain , AM Chang , et al. (2011) Sex difference in the near-24-hour intrinsic period of the human circadian timing system. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 108, Suppl. 3, 1560215608.

132A Tchernof & JP Després (2013) Pathophysiology of human visceral obesity: an update. Physiol Rev 93, 359404.

133DM Arble , J Bass , AD Laposky , et al. (2009) Circadian timing of food intake contributes to weight gain. Obesity 17, 21002102.

134H Sherman , Y Genzer , R Cohen , et al. (2012) Timed high-fat diet resets circadian metabolism and prevents obesity. FASEB J 26, 34933502.

136K Casazza , KR Fontaine , A Astrup , et al. (2013) Myths, presumptions, and facts about obesity. New Eng J Med 368, 446454.

138 ARGallant , JLundgren & VDrapeau (2012) The night-eating syndrome and obesity. Obes Rev 13, 528536.

139 KGBaron , KJReid , ASKern , et al. (2011) Role of sleep timing in caloric intake and BMI. Obesity 19, 13741381.

141M Garaulet , P Gomez-Abellan , JJ Alburquerque-Bejar , et al. (2013) Timing of food intake predicts weight loss effectiveness. Int J Obes 37, 604611.

142 DJakubowicz , MBarnea , JWainstein , et al. (2013) High caloric intake at breakfast vs. dinner differentially influences weight loss of overweight and obese women. Obesity 21, 25042512.

143 GCosta (2003) Shift work and occupational medicine: an overview. Occup Med 53, 8388.

145T Roenneberg , KV Allebrandt , M Merrow , et al. (2012) Social jetlag and obesity. Curr Biol 22, 939943.

146 PTucker , JCMarquie , SFolkard , et al. (2012) Shiftwork and metabolic dysfunction. Chronobiol Int 29, 549555.

147 YEsquirol , VBongard , LMabile , et al. (2009) Shift work and metabolic syndrome: respective impacts of job strain, physical activity, and dietary rhythms. Chronobiol Int 26, 544559.

148 ALowden , CMoreno , UHolmback , et al. (2010) Eating and shift work - effects on habits, metabolism and performance. Scan J Work Environ Health 36, 150162.

149S Folkard (2008) Do permanent night workers show circadian adjustment? A review based on the endogenous melatonin rhythm. Chronobiol Int 25, 215224.

150 DCRibeiro , SMHampton , LMorgan , et al. (1998) Altered postprandial hormone and metabolic responses in a simulated shift work environment. J Endocrinol 158, 305310.

152J Lund , J Arendt , SM Hampton , et al. (2001) Postprandial hormone and metabolic responses amongst shift workers in Antarctica. J Endocrinol 171, 557564.

153G Vandewalle , P Maquet & DJ Dijk (2009) Light as a modulator of cognitive brain function. Trends Cog Sci 13, 429438.

154AM Chang , N Santhi , M St Hilaire , et al. (2012) Human responses to bright light of different durations. J Physiol 590, 31033112.

155JL Barclay , J Husse , B Bode , et al. (2012) Circadian desynchrony promotes metabolic disruption in a mouse model of shiftwork. PLOS ONE 7, e37150.

156R Salgado-Delgado , M Angeles-Castellanos , N Saderi , et al. (2010) Food intake during the normal activity phase prevents obesity and circadian desynchrony in a rat model of night work. Endocrinology 151, 10191029.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Nutrition Research Reviews
  • ISSN: 0954-4224
  • EISSN: 1475-2700
  • URL: /core/journals/nutrition-research-reviews
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score