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May 22, 2014 04:59 PM EDT

Disruption of Circadian Rhythms May Lead To Inflammatory Disease

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A disruption of circadian rhythms may contribute to inflammatory disease, according to a recent study.

Researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Illinois found that when disrupted circadian rhythms are combined with a high-fat, high-sugar diet, it may contribute to inflammatory bowel disease and other harmful conditions.

Inflammation is associated with a number of diseases, including cardiovascular disease and cancer. It is also associated with increased morbidity and mortality.

"Circadian rhythms, which impose a 24-hour cycle on our bodies, are different from sleep patterns," Robin M. Voigt, first author of the study and an assistant professor at Rush Medical College, said in a statement. "Sleep is a consequence of circadian rhythms."

Although the condition is common for some, research suggests that it may be contributing to a host of diseases that may be prevented by regulating things such as sleep/wake patterns and times of eating to help prevent circadian rhythm disruption. Prebiotics or probiotics in the diet can also help normalize the effects of circadian rhythm disruption on the intestinal microbiota to reduce the presence of inflammation.

"It's something that needs to be addressed -- not something people need to be very concerned about, but aware. If you have some of these other risk factors, like a high-fat, high-sugar diet," or a genetic tendency toward disruption in circadian rhythms, "take precautions, watch your diet, take pre- and probiotics, monitor your health, be vigilant," Voigt said.

During the study, male mice had their cycles of exposure to light and dark reversed on a weekly basis. Some of the mice ate standard food; others ate a high-fat, high-sugar diet.

Researchers said that the mice that ate the high-fat, high-sugar diet displayed changes in the makeup of the microorganisms in their guts, regardless of circadian status. However, mice that ate the high-fat, high-sugar diet, and had circadian-rhythm disruptions, had higher concentrations of bacteria that are known to promote inflammation than any of the other mice in the study.

Disrupting the circadian rhythms of the mice fed standard chow did not significantly affect the microbiota in their intestines.

The findings were recently reported in the journal PLOS One.

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