Your Alarm Clock Could Be Making You Fat

Illustration for article titled Your Alarm Clock Could Be Making You Fat

People make all kinds of excuses for being a little overweight. But a new study suggests that tensions between our biological clocks and enforced working hours could be making us all pile on the pounds.

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We humans are creatures with natural, biological tendencies to work and sleep at certain times—and we're all slightly different. Researcher Till Roenneberg explains to Live Science:

"We are biological beings, and we have a biological clock, and what society - and I don't mean the bad guys, I mean all of us - is ignoring is the biological clock. We think we can do whatever we want with the social clock."

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In fact, Roenneberg's new study suggests that the problem is that we all favor waking and sleeping at subtly different times—something that isn't accounted for by enforced business and social schedules. For those whose natural body clocks disagree most with their enforced routines, the result is extra weight.

Roenneberg and his colleagues studied data from more than 65,000 people, looking at their waking and sleep behavior during work and free days. The results, which are published in Current Biology, indicate that for each hour of sleep discrepancy between their natural preferences and enforced routine, people are 33 percent more likley to have a higher Body Mass Index. The likely explanation is that interference with natural waking hours messes with metabolism, in turn making us put on weight.

In days past, our lives were dictated by our body clocks, but nowadays that's virtually impossible to achieve. Instead, Roenneberg suggests that the solution is to try and negotiate with your employer to make your working hours fit your natural rhythms more closely. Good luck with that. [Current Biology via Live Science]

Image by eflon under Creative Commons license

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DISCUSSION

I wonder what they mean by "In days past, our lives were dictated by our body clocks, but nowadays that's virtually impossible to achieve". What days past?? As far as written history goes, people have been getting up at the crack of dawn to tend to livestock and their fields if they wanted to have enough food to survive, or in hunting societies, they had to hunt whenever it was best time to catch the animals.

Also, there are plenty of skinny people that work normal business hours. What is up by their metabolism?

I think that all these researchers are looking too hard at things that have a fairly simple answer - we are fat because we eat too much and we don't move enough. Change the balance on those two things, and huge majority of people will respond by losing weight.

People used to be skinnier because there was not as much food to be has as easy as today, white collar jobs were not as common, and there were not as many cars or other modes of transportation to haul your ass with no effort from A to B. I gained 30 lbs in 13 years of living in the states....