Researchers have shown that eating meals late at night makes people susceptible to all kinds of preventable and chronic health issues such as obesity and diabetes, but new research reveals that it can also make the skin age faster.
According to a collaborative research published in Cell Reports, late night snacking causes a disruption in our body clock that also affects the potency of enzymes used to protect against the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays.
Researchers say that people who snack late at night have skin that age faster and are more prone to getting sunburn and skin cancer.
"This finding is surprising. I did not think the skin was paying attention to when we are eating," study co-lead Dr. Joseph S. Takahashi expressed. Dr. Takahashi is also UT Southwestern Medical Center's Peter O'Donnell Jr. Brain Institute's chairman of neuroscience.
The researchers actually used mice to carry out the study and the researchers agree that further study is needed; however, they also believe that it could apply to humans since it establishes the connection between eating schedules and enzymes present in both mice and humans.
"It's hard to translate these findings to humans at this point, but it's fascinating to me that the skin would be sensitive to the timing of food intake," study co-lead Dr. Bogi Andersen from the University of California, Irvine said.
Midnight Snacks And Skin Problems
In order to determine whether the skin was paying attention to the body clock, the team of researchers fed one group of mice during the daytime and another during the night then monitored the xeroderma pigmentosum group A (XPA) cycle of both groups. The team found that mice that were fed during the daytime sustained more skin damage than those fed at night.
For those who are wondering what makes the altered XPA cycle good evidence, it is because mice are naturally nocturnal, so they usually feed at night. Feeding mice during the daytime is basically equivalent to humans and other daytime creatures having a meal during times when they are supposed to be resting or sleeping already.
The team found that the XPA cycle of the daytime-fed mice shifted to be less active in the day, which made them more prone to getting sunburnt. The abnormal feeding time not only disrupted the XPA cycle, but it completely reversed it. If this same scenario is applied to humans, people who have abnormal eating schedules (i.e. those who eat late at night close to their resting time as opposed to those who eat during their active phase) would have weaker UV protection during the day, the time when it is normally more active.
"If you have an abnormal eating schedule, that could cause a harmful shift in your skin clock, like it did in the mouse," Dr. Takahashi said.
But Wait, There's More
The shifted XPA cycle and UV ray susceptibility are not the only findings in the research that would show how important it is to maintain a proper eating schedule.
According to the study, a disrupted XPA cycle also affects roughly 10 percent of the skin's genes and an even larger amount of skin genes are affected by food intake.
Dr. Takahashi's next research will look into the abnormal feeding schedule's effect on aging and longevity.