One Surprising Cause for Obesity: Electricity

electricity
Image REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Electricity has created many positive developments for mankind. In fact, since Thomas Edison created the very first light bulb, electricity has been harnessed to make refrigerators, computers and, of course, medical equipment. It also allows us to eat, drink, and play at all hours of the night. But a new study published in Bioessays has found that electricity may have serious consequences for our health - and for our waistlines.

According to the National Institutes of Health, "Circadian rhythms are physical, mental and behavioral changes that follow a roughly 24-hour cycle, responding primarily to light and darkness in an organism's environment." The system is controlled heavily by our biological clocks which are present in every cell in the body. In addition, the human body is finely attuned to the Earth's rotation and the 24 hours in a day.

Researcher Cathy Wyse, from the University of Aberdeen, says the body clock, and our circadian rhythms, are changed by artificial light, as well as irregular work schedules, meal times and sleep hours. The mismatch between the body's circadian rhythms and the environment is called 'circadian desynchrony' - and it is caused by electricity. She says that the obesity epidemic may be caused by our bodies being out of sync and changes to our circadian rhythm which affect metabolism.

In a statement, Wyse says, "Electric light allowed humans to override an ancient synchronisation between the rhythm of the human clock and the environment, and over the last century, daily rhythms in meal, sleep and working times have gradually disappeared from our lives. The human clock struggles to remain tuned to our highly irregular lifestyles, and I believe that this causes metabolic and other health problems, and makes us more likely to become obese. Studies in microbes, plants and animals have shown that synchronisation of the internal clock with environmental rhythms is important for health and survival, and it is highly likely that this is true in humans as well."

The research also suggests that some people are more at risk for this de-synchronization than others. People from Equatorial regions have clocks that are very regular, meaning that they are more sensitive to the effects of electricity.

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