Social jet lag: When the liver is out of sync
Modern hectic lifestyle is causing most of us to live a life that is not in synchrony with our body’s biological clock. Busy work schedule, active social life, and accumulated fatigue are making us to stay awake when we are supposed to sleep, and sleep when we are supposed to be awake.
This leads to the development of a phenomenon called social jet lag, a condition that jeopardizes the liver's health to a tremendous degree.
Recently, more and more research begins to uncover the damage to the liver brought by this unhealthy lifestyle. It has been recognized that chronic social jet lag can increase liver cancer risk and accelerate the progression from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) to non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).
What exactly is social jet lag?
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, social jet lag, also known as chronic circadian disruption, refers to the discrepancy in behaviours between social and biological time, i.e. between work and free days. Oversleeping at weekends to compensate the sleep debt accumulated over the work week is a common example. Aside from the sleeping time, meal hours is heavily influenced by social jet lag as well.
How is the liver being affected?
The liver is a hardworking organ that works accordingly to our body’s internal clock. It is not difficult to imagine that when we are not sleeping or eating at the right time, its functions would be disrupted. Here’s how social jet lag plays a huge role in the progression of liver diseases.
- Disrupts the liver’s functions & increases cancer risk
A recent research study published in the journal Cell Reports has found that meal times can influence the liver’s biological clock.
It is observed that disrupted biological clock can interfere with the liver’s production and synthesis of glucose, fat, cholesterol, and bile acid. In the study, subjects are put in chronic jet lag conditions and they are found to make more bile acids that are recycled back in the liver. An accumulation of excess bile acids can cause damage to liver cells and oxidative stress, which makes for a perfect condition for liver cancer to develop.
- Accelerate NAFLD to NASH and fibrosis progression
When we delay our bedtime, there is a higher tendency to start late-night snacking. In another research study published in Cell Metabolism, it is found that nighttime eating caused a significant increase of about 25% of liver fat content. On the contrary, restricting nighttime snacking leads to a drastic decrease in liver fat content.
On top of the increase in liver fat content, jet-lagged subjects were found to show faster NAFLD to NASH progression. This is probably because irregular sleep-wake rhythm can induce persistent liver injury and liver inflammation, which can progress to liver cancer over time.
In fact, our liver health is so closely tied to our body’s natural internal clock that a new research study published in the journal Nature Communications suggests that, the body's internal clock could play a critical role in fighting against certain types of liver cancer.
Overcoming social jet lag for the liver
When it comes to protecting the liver from inflammation and diseases, liver supplements are useful and beneficial as they can safely repair and regenerate damaged liver cells, promote healthy liver functions, and lower the risks of developing advanced liver problems. But in the case of social jet lag, the liver’s health is compromised because of the unhealthy sleeping and eating habits.
Tips to a healthier liver? Try to maintain a similar eat and sleep schedule on work and free days. Avoid too much weekend lie-ins, or staying up too late at night. Most important of all, refrain from engaging late-night snacking as much as possible. The ultimate goal is to put our liver back in sync with our body’s natural clock.
- National Center for Biotechnology Information, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5695235/, (Accessed Date: 2019-05-02)
- National Center for Biotechnology Information, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5890189/, (Accessed Date: 2019-05-02)
- ScienceDaily, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/11/181108091241.htm, (Accessed Date: 2019-05-02)
- Cancer Cell, https://www.cell.com/cancer-cell/fulltext/S1535-6108(16)30494-9, (Accessed Date: 2019-05-02)
- Baylor College of Medicine, https://blogs.bcm.edu/2017/02/14/out-of-sync-out-of-health-social-jet-lag-linked-to-liver-cancer-in-mice/, (Accessed Date: 2019-05-02)
- Phys.org, https://phys.org/news/2019-04-mice-liver-biological-clock.html, (Accessed Date: 2019-05-02)
- * All research and clinical data should be used as reference purposes only, results may vary.