Failure in biological clocks inherent in mammals lead to the development of obesity and diabetes, claim UC San Diego biologists.
It also raises the possibility that some of the rise in diabetes could be a consequence of disturbances in sleep-wake cycles from our increasingly around-the-clock lifestyles.
"We know that mice that don't have good biological clocks tend to develop diabetes and obesity. And we know that mice that have developed diabetes and obesity tend not to have very good biological clocks," Nature quoted Steve Kay at UC San Diego, as saying.
"But what we found that's so significant is that a particular biological clock protein, cryptochrome, is actually regulating how the hormone that regulates glucose production in the liver works in a very specific way," he added.
The study also indicates why shift workers, whose biological clocks are often out of step, also have a greater risk of developing obesity and insulin resistance.
In a process known as "gluconeogenesis", when we are awake and eating, sufficient glucose is supplied to our bloodstream. But when we're asleep or fasting, glucose needs to be synthesized from the glycogen stored in our liver to keep our glucose levels up - indicating the role of diurnal activity.
"And if that's the case, can we find ways of fixing the clock to treat this disease? Such an approach would be a whole new way of thinking about how to develop new treatments for diabetes," said Kay.
The results are published in the journal Nature.