Chronobiology and medication. (Please see the previous issue for the background)
Current research is revealing the scope of impact that chronobiology has on a range of diseases. These vary from cancer and cardiac disorders to allergies and arthritis. They highlight epidemiological data and clinical trials indicating the significance of prescribing medication at specific times. One research article published in The Scientist, titled “Circadian Rhythms Influence Treatment Effects”, has demonstrated that timing medications to the body’s internal clock could improve their efficacy and even reduce side effects. The research uncovers biological details of the molecular intricacies of cellular rhythms and the circadian clock’s influence on medications.
The importance of taking medication at prescribed times is emphasized. Here’s why: “For many years, doctors believed that it didn’t really matter when a patient took medicine, but, as we are now learning, that isn’t entirely true. All people are subject to natural daily rhythms that affect our biology, including our ability to metabolize drugs”. (study.com/academy/lesson/chronobiology-definition-examples).
Some interesting research has emerged from studies in the UK. Researchers at the University of Birmingham undertook studies over three winters, starting in 2011. Study subjects over the age of 65 were invited to attend clinics for a seasonal influenza vaccination at specific times of day – either between 9 and 11am or between 3 and 5pm. Blood tests from 300 individuals were taken a month later and revealed that higher levels of antibodies were present if they had received their vaccination in the morning. (J.E.Long etc, Morning vaccination enhances antibody responses over afternoon vaccination: a cluster-randomized trial.
Lead author Anna Philipps Whittaker concludes that the results suggest that daily rhythms of people’s bodies made the vaccine more efficient. Drawing on previous studies, Whittaker explains that many hormones and immune signals are produced rhythmically in 24-hour cycles. For example, cortisol, known to suppress inflammation and regulate certain T-cell-mediated immune responses, peaks early in the morning and declines as the day progresses. (J.E.Long etc, as above)
Phillips observed that other facets of the immune system undergo similar cycles that could underlie the differences in antibody responses among people receiving the flu vaccine. Francis Levi, an oncologist working at Warwick Medical School, states: “When you give a medication, you always know the dose. We have found that the timing is sometimes more important than the dose”. (nature.com/articles/d41586-018-04600-8)
ACTION: If you are taking prescription medication, be sure that it is taken at the prescribed times!