Chrono-Nutrition: What Is It and Why Is It So Important – Especially If You’re A Shift Worker?

Chrono-nutrition – have you heard of it? Do you know what it is?

As I type this article, this is my current view at the moment. Writing and putting together content for a Healthy Shift Worker online training package for an organisation which employs health care practitioners who work 24/7.

And whenever I write content or deliver talks, Chrono-nutrition always gets mentioned, because most people haven’t heard of it, even though it’s extremely relevant for shift workers.

Even as a Nutritionist, I was blissfully unaware of it until I’d almost finished my degree, because it wasn’t actually incorporated into the curriculum.

It wasn’t until I began seeing clients one-on-one in my final year of University, that my interest in this area of research (ok maybe “obsession” is more appropriate) began to flourish.

A part of our training to become a Clinical Nutritionist, is to ask our clients what they eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner and everything else in between! But the thing that I was noticing, was that despite some of my clients eating quite well, many were still struggling with their weight.

This left me quite puzzled, and it wasn’t until I started to get more creative with my questioning, that things became much more clearer.

My clients were eating healthy – but at all different times of the day!

This was, and still is, the deal breaker.

Time of ingestion is absolutely critical for our well-being, because ingesting food during the night versus the day, can have completely different effects on our metabolism.

Just like our body follows a daily sleep/wake cycle or rhythm, certain organs such as the liver, pancreas and intestine methodically follow a 24-hour daily rhythm, and are not expecting food intake at 3am. Essentially, our body is not geared for night-time energy and nutrient consumption because gastric emptying, intestinal blood flow, kidney and liver activity all slow down during the night.

Quite simply, it’s not all about “what” we’re eating. “When” we eat plays a huge role, and is especially relevant for anyone working 24/7.

Audra x

References:

Almoosawi, S, Vingeliene, S, Karagounis, L & Pot, G 2016, ‘Chrono-nutrition: a review of current evidence from observational studies on global trends in time-of-day of energy intake and its association with obesity, Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, vol. 75, no. 4, pp. 487-500.

Arble, D, Bass, J, Laposky, A, Viatatenal, M & Turek, F 2009, ‘Circadian timing of food intake contributes to weight gain’, Obesity (Silver Spring), vol. 17, no 11, pp. 2100-2102.

Vaughn, B, Rotolo S & Roth, H 2014, ‘Circadian Rhythms and Sleep Influences on Digestive Physiology and Disorders’, ChronoPhysiology and Therapy, vo. 4, pp. 67-77.

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