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Chronobiology: what are the principles for being in shape?

Chronobiology is the study of the body's biological rhythms. Respecting our internal clock, whether in terms of nutrition or sleep, would be the key to preserving our well-being and above all our health. Here are some explanations.

What is chronobiology?

Like all living beings, our body is subject to biological rhythms that influence our brain and the functioning of our hormones and cells. Respecting and taking into account these rhythms in our daily lives and activities is essential to maintain our body in good health. There are three main types of rhythms:

  • The circadian rhythm: a 24-hour cycle that influences the majority of the body's functions and in particular the sleep-wake rhythm, body temperature and the cyclical secretion of several hormones;
  • The ultradian rhythm: this concerns the organs and functions whose rhythm is faster than the circadian rhythm, such as the cardiac or respiratory rhythm for example;
  • Infradian rhythms: i.e. rhythms that exceed 24 hours, such as the menstrual cycle.

We owe the progress of research on the different mechanisms of our internal clocks to three American geneticists who were awarded a Nobel Prize in 2017: Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young.

What are the risks of a disruption of our internal clock?

Depending on the time of day, the body does not have the same physiological and biological needs. It is estimated that 20 to 40% of the molecules produced by the body depend on our internal clock. Hence the importance of respecting these natural rhythms or risk seeing your health deteriorate.

Circadian rhythm disorders are associated with an increase in several risks:

  • Cancers;
  • Drowsiness and sleep disorders;
  • Impaired cognitive functions;
  • Metabolic and cardiovascular disorders;
  • Mood disorders;
  • Depression;
  • Anxiety.

Chronobiology and sleep

Depending on the individual, there is a drop in body temperature at the most appropriate time to go to bed. At 10pm, the body begins to secrete melatonin, the sleep hormone, and the pulse slows down to prepare the body for sleep. It is the secretion of cortisol, the wake-up hormone, that will then help us get out of bed in the early morning.

Factors such as age, illness, poor lifestyle, sensitivity to light or night work can lead to a disruption of the circadian sleep rhythm. Medical support may be necessary to understand the origins of the disorder and to restore a normal rhythm.

Chrononutrition: the influence of chronobiology on diet

The rhythm of food intake has an impact on health. Hence the importance of listening to one's needs and respecting as much as possible a routine, which can vary from one individual to another, for eating. Studies have shown, for example, that eating less than an hour before bedtime can have long-term effects on our health.

The principle of chrononutrition developed by Doctor Alain Delabos at the end of the 1980s is based on this precept. It is based on the idea that food is not assimilated by the body in the same way depending on the time of day it is eaten. It is therefore a matter of eating groups of foods at the appropriate times. Many so-called chronoregime diets or diets based on chrononutrition are already proposed, but their effectiveness and superiority compared to other approaches have not been demonstrated by scientific studies.

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