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  • Debi Stafford

Obesity, Bipolar, the Sun, and the CLOCK

I've recently been working on an obesity training from the American Association of Nurse Practitioners. Among many other Single-Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) is the CLOCK gene. An SNP is a tiny snippet of a gene that is responsible for a specific function in the human body, and scientists have found different variants of the gene we all have. Some of those variants make the gene work less than ideal. Welcome CLOCK gene.

The CLOCK gene has been of increasing interest because it impacts so much of our health & wellness. It's not just one gene, but an entire network of SNP's feeding into Circadian rhythm (Rijo-Ferreira & Takahashi, 2019). What does the CLOCK gene/network do? According to Rijo-Ferreira (2019), we are learning the CLOCK network controls "...sleep through the circadian system, as well as the impact of dysregulated gene expression on metabolic function. We also review recent studies that have begun to unravel the circadian clock’s role in controlling the cardiovascular and nervous systems, gut microbiota, cancer, and aging. Such circadian control of these systems relies, in part, on transcriptional regulation, with recent evidence for genome-wide regulation of the clock through circadian chromosome organization. "

Metabolic function. That's a big deal. Some of us think as metabolism as being all about obesity. That's a big part of metabolic fallout. But what about the brain? Energy metabolic dysfunction has been called one of the most consistent findings in psychiatric disorders (Zuccoli et al, 2017). Yeom et al (2021) just published a study finding early-onset mood disorders were associated high seasonality. In other words, winter sucks. No sun = circadian rhythm disruption.

We are lucky in our region that sunny days are headed our way. However, I'm deeply disturbed with the EXPLODING anxiety and depression in our region that the reaction from COVID has created, along with significant weight gain. We hear slather on the sunblock.

Okay, cancer is real. Melanoma is real. But CLOCK, circadian rhythm, obesity, and mood disorders are real, too. I'm not suggesting we all go out & get sunburned. But I am going to go rogue here (call me Princess Leia) but STOP BEING SO AFRAID OF THE SUN!!!!!!

Wow, that felt good! Stop slathering in toxic soup all over our bodies day after day after day. Avoid the sun during peak burn times, use organic, safe sun screens, wear a hat, or stay in the more shaded areas, but for goodness sake, go outside and get some natural light! And do it barefoot when you can, too!

What if taking our children out for at least one hour morning and afternoons every day from infancy could prevent them from developing obesity or a mood disorder later on in life? Wouldn't it be worth it?

Rijo-Ferreira, F., Takahashi, J.S. (2019). Genomics of circadian rhythms in health and disease. Genome Med11, 82

Yeom, J. W., Cho, C.‐H., Jeon, S., Seo, J. Y., Son, S., Ahn, Y.‐M., Kim, S. J., Ha, T. H., Cha, B., Moon, E., Park, D. Y., Baek, J. H., Kang, H.‐J., An, H., & Lee, H.‐J. (2021). Bipolar II disorder has the highest prevalence of seasonal affective disorder in early‐onset mood disorders: Results from a prospective observational cohort study. Depression and Anxiety, 1– 10.

Zuccoli, G. S., Saia-Cereda, V. M., Nascimento, J. M., & Martins-de-Souza, D. (2017). The Energy Metabolism Dysfunction in Psychiatric Disorders Postmortem Brains: Focus on Proteomic Evidence. Frontiers in neuroscience, 11, 493.

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