- Jose Carlos Cueto
- BBC World News
Is your body the same in winter, spring, summer and fall?
The answer has little to do with getting colder or hotter, but rather with the biological changes you experience 365 days a year.
In winter you are more prone to gaining weight and acne, for example, and in spring your metabolism fluctuates markedly as it recovers from a prolonged period of increased inactivity.
But the body oscillates during the year have not been studied enough and understanding them well could have a great impact on our health caresay experts consulted by BBC Mundo.
In fact, it is not even entirely clear that our body is able to recognize the four seasons of the year.
Winter and spring
“Since we are children they speak to us about four seasons a year. But what does our biology say about this?”
That was the question Michael Snyder, director of genomics and personalized medicine at Stanford University in California, asked himself before undertaking a special experiment.
Snyder and his team monitored more than 100 residents of this US state for four years. They wanted to know the changes their bodies underwent according to the season of the year.
To their surprise, the examinees they only perceived two seasons and not four, as many of us might expect.
“The molecular fluctuations in these people occurred in only two patterns that coincide with the beginning of winter, in December-January (in the northern hemisphere), and in May during spring,” Snyder tells BBC Mundo.
In winter our metabolism slows down, since we are less active, and this makes us more likely to gain weight. As well increase the markers of hypertension and the possibility dand suffer from acne.
In spring, on the other hand, a “high” of the metabolism is observed as we recover from the inactivity of winter and, in addition, we suffer more allergies and asthma, so our bio-inflammatory markers also increase and stay that way for much of the summer.
“That some people, like those in our study, are only able to” react “to two seasons and not four is very important because this information can improve health management“, says Snyder.
“If we confirm in advance that cardiovascular markers will be worse during the winter, perhaps it is a good idea to plan our diet better and force ourselves to do more physical exercise”, analyzes the specialist.
In winter, also more resistant
It is known that in winter we catch colds and get more respiratory viruses. This is largely explained by how our body reacts during this season.
“In winter our body favors the survival and replication of viruses. This is due to the fact that our immunity is less prepared for humidity, cold and less light, “Dr. Silvia Sánchez-Ramón, professor of immunology at the San Carlos Clinical Hospital in Madrid, Spain, explains to BBC Mundo.
But this also makes our immune response more powerful, according to the immunologist.
“Knowing how our body and immune system behaves allows us to determine, for example, what is the best time to schedule a vaccination campaign”, adds Sánchez-Ramón.
“In the same way, it has been proven that C-reactive protein, the one that reacts to inflammation, is more active in winter; when it is normally kept at low levels “, continues the expert.
In this sense, although the specialist cannot confirm whether the same phenomenon occurs in other populations as in the Stanford study – which only perceives two seasons and not four – she does recognize that, at the molecular level, the immune system works with a certain “bi-seasonality”.
The need to find more patterns
Sánchez-Ramón and Snyder agree that the identification of biological patterns during the year needs further investigation.
“A poor diet and low in nutrients like vitamin D is known to affect our response to infections, but less is known about which remedies promote a better immune response. There is no magic formula because the patterns are not studied sufficiently“says Sánchez-Ramón.
Along the same lines, Snyder believes that, in general, “doctors do not try to follow common patterns of health in people. They tell us what is right or wrong, but there is not much information on how to anticipate potential problems or diseases.”
For this reason, Snyder believes that studies like his should be replicated around the world to find out how the biology of people changes in different climates.
“What works for someone in California to monitor health may be different for a Chicago resident,” says Snyder.
“Using big data and advanced technologies to identify health patterns will greatly improve the treatment and diagnosis of cardiovascular and infectious diseases, for example. This will be a big boost for medicine and health measurement in the future“, concludes the expert.
Remember that you can receive notifications from BBC Mundo. Downloada our app and activate them so you don’t miss our best content.
Digsmak is a news publisher with over 12 years of reporting experiance; and have published in many industry leading publications and news sites.