A study published last week found that Type 2 diabetes impairs the master circadian clock in the brain in humans. I remember when I thought reversing Type 2 Diabetes was strictly about eating less and moving more. People who fail at it are simply not motivated enough, or they lack discipline and accountability.
Well, it turns out I have the first part correct: They suffer from a lack of motivation. But it’s not because they’re weak or lack willpower. The master clock plays a role in regulating mood, energy levels, and motivation, so disrupting it can do all sorts of bad things to motivation.
Type 2 diabetes and the master clock
The study compared the brains of dead people with and without Type 2 diabetes. They found that people with it had fewer neurons and astrocytes in their master clock than healthy controls. Previous research showed that astrocytes alone can keep the master clock humming along nicely.
I always wondered why Type 2 diabetics were unable to get on track with their diet and exercise. This explains why this happens: the signal of their master clock is weaker than healthy people. And, this may reinforce the behaviors that drive the disease, and increases their risk of other chronic diseases.
Previous evidence shows that impairing the signal causes poor sleep, it’s not the other way around. So this also explains poor sleep in Type 2 diabetics. They go on to cite a study showing that greater light intensity increased the signal and improved sleep in rats. They conclude by saying:
Our data indicate that besides regular glucose-lowering medication, normalising circadian rhythms by pharmacological or behavioural approaches might be helpful to treat type 2 diabetes more effectively.
The master clock in the brain is rewired in Type 2 diabetics. This has a number of negative effects throughout the body, and likely drives their inability to regulate blood sugar. Other problems include autonomic dysfunction, increased appetite, poor sleep, and impaired motivation.
Therefore, it’s important to address multiple aspects of your lifestyle to reverse it. In other words, it’s about a lot more than just diet and exercise.
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