Let’s face it. Midnight cravings are a real thing, and they come at the same time most every single night. Whether it’s needing chips, crackers, soda, pizza, or some other such snack, many people nationwide feel the inexplicable urge to eat late at night.
And, while this may seem like a harmless act (after all, food is good!), eating late at night can have some surprising and even harmful side effects.
Many people now understand that giving in to the “midnight munchies” can have negative consequences, such as a decrease in energy the next day, as well as weight gain. However, according to recent research, these aren’t the only effects you need to watch out for.
According to Medical News Today:
“Do you get the midnight munchies? If so, new research suggests you might want to take extra care when sunbathing: eating late at night could make your skin more vulnerable to sun damage.
According to researchers, mice that were fed during the day rather than at night – which is an abnormal eating pattern for the rodents – experienced greater skin damage as a result of exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, compared with mice fed at normal times.
Study co-author Dr. Joseph S. Takahashi, of the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, and colleagues report that the abnormal eating times altered the circadian rhythm in the skin of the mice, reducing the daytime activity of a skin-protecting enzyme.
The findings were recently published in the journal Cell Reports.
Whether from the sun or tanning beds, UV rays damage the DNA in skin cells, making UV exposure a major risk factor for sunburn, skin aging, and skin cancer.
UVA rays – which account for up to 95 percent of UV rays that reach the Earth’s surface – penetrate the deeper layers of skin. They are a key cause of skin aging, and they also play a role in skin cancer.
UVB rays cause most damage to the outer skin layers, and they are the main cause of sunburn and skin cancer.
Wearing sun-protective clothing and sunscreen are two of the best ways to protect our skin against the damaging effects of UV radiation. The new study from Dr. Takahashi and colleagues, however, suggests that adhering to a normal eating pattern may also help.
Activity of skin-protecting enzyme altered
The researchers came to their conclusion by assessing the effects of UVB exposure on the skin of two groups of mice. One group was fed during the daytime only – an abnormal eating time for the nocturnal rodents – while the other group was fed at nighttime only, the usual eating time for mice.
The team found that exposure to UVB radiation during the daytime caused greater skin damage in mice whose eating patterns were abnormal, compared with mice that had normal eating patterns.
Further investigation revealed that abnormal eating times triggered changes in the circadian rhythm of the rodents’ skin.
Specifically, an enzyme called xeroderma pigmentosum group A (XPA) – which normally helps to protect skin against UV damage – became less active in the daytime and more active at nighttime.
Mice that followed their normal eating patterns, however, showed no shift in XPA activity.”
That’s not all. The researchers also made the discovery that altering the rodents’ eating patterns had an affect on about 10% of their skin genes. However, it is uncertain what the ramifications of this are.
The researchers are still unsure if altering a human’s eating schedule produces the same affect on the skin’s circadian rhythm. However, these results show that humans may be at a higher risk of UV damage if we continue our habits of eating late at night.
This is why humans are much better off eating at consistent times throughout the day. This is also a good reason to not give in to hunger cravings during the hours we should be asleep.
Dr. Joseph S. Takahashi says it simply:
“It is likely that if you have a normal eating schedule, then you will be better protected from UV during the daytime. If you have an abnormal eating schedule, that could cause a harmful shift in your skin clock, like it did in the mouse.”