When to eat fatty meals: nutrition researchers discover new “biological lipid metabolism clock”

Just in time of Christmas, scientists from the German Institute for Human Nutrition (DIfE) and Lipotype GmbH have published their results of their research on the influence of fatty breakfasts and dinners on lipid metabolism. Their newly discovered “biological lipid metabolism clock” fills a gap in nutritional medicine to activate nutrition for prevention and intervention, and to research how specific foods at specific times of the day can contribute to our health or disease.


Two groups of scientists, one goal
The research group of PD Dr. Olga Ramich at the German Institute for Human Nutrition (DIfE) and the scientists of Lipotype GmbH share one mission: combat the diseases which plague modern society. Together, they want to activate nutrition and diet as a tool for prevention and intervention of widespread diseases such as diabetes.

Four years ago, during a meetup in Berlin, both agreed that the lack of molecular data about the influence of the diet on lipid metabolism was a black box of scientific mysteries. “In nutrition research, we had come to grips with general recommendations like less sugar and less fat.”, remembers Dr. Christian Klose from Lipotype GmbH, “But the questions we as a group of scientists wanted to answer were: are there foods with measurable health benefits and what happens with us if we eat fatty in the morning or in the evening?” The DIfE research group specialized in nutritional medicine developed a setup for a clinical trial to answer these questions.


A clinical study to answer these questions
In a first step, the metabolism of the health study participants was calibrated through a strict diet plan. After this period, one group of the study participants ate a fatty meal for breakfast and a carbohydrate-rich meal for dinner. The second group received the reversed meal plan. During this last step, blood samples were drawn from all participants before and after each meal.

“We wanted to understand how the lipid metabolism and its hundreds of different lipids in blood plasma react to our diet program.”, explains PD Dr. Olga Ramich from DIfE, “And, we were interested in how these changes in blood plasma lipid levels are linked to insulin sensitivity, which can be a great indicator to identify patients who are prone to developing diabetes.” The crux: traditional lipid analysis was not detailed enough to answer these questions. Which is why the samples were sent to Lipotype for a shotgun lipidomics analysis, a detailed molecular analysis of hundreds of lipids at once.


Lipidomics discovers a new biological clock
The extracted blood plasma lipids were shot into a mass spectrometer. Bioinformatics solutions unveiled 14 lipid classes with a total of 672 different lipids from the mass spectrometer results, and bio-statistical methods converted these into lipidomics charts and graphs. “We discovered a daily lipid metabolism pattern – a biological lipid metabolism clock. This clock responded significantly differently to same meals in the morning than in the evening, and such time-dependent pattern  was found for both high-carb and high-fat meals.”, states Dr. Christian Klose. Next, the lipidomics results were plotted against insulin sensitivity measurements to discover a link between 7 of the 14 lipid classes and insulin sensitivity.

“These results are fundamental to activate nutrition and diet as a tool for prevention and intervention of widespread diseases. It’s the basis to research which specific foods at specific time of the day can help adjust insulin sensitivity to healthy levels and act against diabetes.”, comments PD Dr. Olga Ramich, “Discovering the lipid metabolism clock underlines what our nutritional medicine research group has been emphasizing for years: the concept of an internal clock applies to our metabolism too. Living against this clock is unhealthy and increases the risk for diabetes.”


Resources

1 – Publication: Shotgun lipidomics discovered diurnal regulation of lipid metabolism linked to insulin sensitivity in non-diabetic men
2 – Press Release: The Biological Lipid Metabolism Clock
3 – Pressemitteilung: Die Biologische Fettstoffwechsel-Uhr


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