Sometimes the cure is worse than the disease
Starving yourself before a long flight may help prevent jet lag, US researchers said on Thursday.
Normally, the body’s natural circadian clock in the brain dictates when to wake, eat and sleep, all in response to light. But it seems a second clock takes over when food is scarce, and manipulating this clock might help travelers adjust to new time zones, they said.
“A period of fasting with no food at all for about 16 hours is enough to engage this new clock,” said Dr Clifford Saper of Harvard Medical School, whose study appears in the journal Science.
He said a person from the US traveling to Japan must adjust to a 11-hour time change. “Because the body’s clock can only shift a small amount each day, it takes the average person about a week to adjust to the new time zone. And, by then, it’s often time to come home,” Saper said.
Saper and colleagues knew when food is scarce, animals are able to override their normal biological clock to improve their chances of finding food.
Studies have shown mice fed only during the time when they usually sleep shift body clocks to this new schedule. “They would be awake and alert and ready to go an hour or two before a meal was due to appear to have maximal chance of getting the food,” Saper said. “This is built into the brain. The problem is, nobody knew how it worked.”
While skipping meals ahead of a long flight or night shift has not been proven to work in humans, it may be worth a try. “I’m certainly going to do it the next time I go to Japan,” he said.
Via The Times