As a kid, I had my own snack drawer at my parents’ house. It was filled with Gushers, Fruit Roll-Ups, cheese dipping sticks, pretzels and everything a kid would want to stuff their face with. I snacked in the morning. I snacked in the evening. But my favorite time to snack was at night.
Unfortunately, that bad habit followed me into my 20’s. I didn’t think much of it apart from the typical “you gain more weight at night” argument, but I found out there are actually some major drawbacks to the habit–especially when it comes to your skin.
A study conducted by the O’Donnell Brain Institute and UC Irvine published in Cell Reports found that late night snacking increases the risk of skin damage. This can lead to skin aging and even skin cancer.
Details On The Study
During the study, the researchers took groups of mice and altered their feeding schedules. They fed the nocturnal animals in the day as opposed to their regular nighttime feedings. When exposed to ultraviolet radiation (UV rays), the mice with the altered eating schedules experienced greater skin damage as opposed to the mice who stuck to their usual eating times.
According to Dr. Joseph S. Takahashi, Chairman of Neuroscience at UT Southwestern Medical Center’s Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute, the altered eating schedule disrupted “the biological clock of the skin, including the daytime potency of an enzyme that protects against the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation.” Basically, the skin becomes more sensitive to the sun’s rays.
How Can It Cause Skin Aging?
The sun has also been known to prematurely age the skin when not protected by preventative measures such as sunscreen. This is because UV rays change the DNA within the skin. Specifically, the fibers within your skin called elastin breakdown, which causes sagging and stretching.
When you eat late at night and lower the potency of the sun protecting enzyme, you are only increasing the chances of premature aging. But the effects of nighttime eating don’t end there.
The Possibility Of Skin Cancer
Skin cancer is the most prevalent form of cancer in the U.S. It’s caused by the growth of abnormal skin cells which results in either noncancerous or cancerous tumors.
But what does grabbing that 2 a.m. chocolate bar have to do with skin cancer? Since UV rays are the leading cause of skin cancer, and being that late night snacking makes us more vulnerable to those rays, our chances of being affected increase.
But don’t worry–you won’t get skin cancer or suffer through premature aging just by eating a midnight snack here and there. It would have to be a consistent habit. Even then, the study was conducted on mice. There is still further research that needs to be done to fully link late night eating and its negative effects to people.
But if you don’t want to take any chances, there are better and smarter ways to feed into your bedtime cravings. Try opting for foods that are low in fats, spices, sugar and caffeine. Try indulging in nuts, fruit, high-fiber cereal, or whole-grain crackers and cheese.