Midnight Snacks Affect the Skin

October 13, 2017

We all know that midnight snacking isn’t great for the waistline. But you’ll probably be shocked by the other ways this bad habit could affect your appearance and your health. Women in their childbearing years aren’t the only ones with biological clocks. Believe it or not, the skin (remember, it’s an organ) has its very own biological clock. And eating at the wrong time could throw it out of sync. Here’s why that matters.

Dr. Joseph S. Takahashi, Chairman of Neuroscience at UT Southwestern Medical Center’s Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute was the first to discover the Clock gene that regulates circadian rhythms. Recently, he’s been focusing on research into how the timing of our food intake affects the biological clock. And even he has been surprised by his findings related to the skin!

Dr. Takahashi and his research team have been studying feeding times in mice. Keep in mind that mice are nocturnal, so their feeding schedules are opposite those of humans. The researchers found that when they flipped the mice’s normal schedule and fed the mice only during the day, the mice were more susceptible to UVB damage during the day than during the night.

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This was happening, at least partially, because an enzyme called xeroderma pigmentosum group A (XPA) adjusted to the feeding times and became less active during the day. XPA’s job is to repair UV damage in the skin. When the mice stuck to their normal eating schedules, their XPA cycles stayed on track, and they weren’t as vulnerable to UV rays during the day.

The researchers believe this pattern may hold true in humans. If we disrupt our skin’s natural rhythm by eating at night, it could decrease our UV protection during the day when we need it. This leaves us susceptible to UV damage and an increased risk of skin cancer. In fact, the study found that changing our eating patterns could disrupt expression of up to 10% of the skin’s genes, including but not limited to those controlling XPA cycles.

We’ve discussed in the past about how the foods we eat affect our skin as well. Few of us reach for fruits or vegetables when we’re raiding the fridge after dark. If you want your skin to look its best, choose healthy, whole foods, and eat them during the day. And don’t forget to wear sunscreen, no matter when you’re eating. XPA can help repair the damage your skin sustains if you keep its cycle on track. But it’s better to sustain minimal damage in the first place by keeping your skin protected. Staying away from food late at night is a good place to start.

To your health, naturally,




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