Eating Late At Night May Be Bad For Your Brain

An attractive woman raids the refrigerator late at night looking for a food snack; Shutterstock ID 93209830; PO: MC for TODAY Health

After a long day of work or a late night out, you might find yourself reaching for snacks when you should be hitting the sack.

Our biological systems  work based on having a daily rhythm. The circadian rhythm follows a 24-hour cycle and regulates pretty much everything in our body, from our behavior and the release of hormones to letting us know when it's time to go to bed.

Disrupting that sleep-wake cycle is bad for your health, said Christopher Colwell, one of the experts and a professor of psychiatry and bio-behavioral sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles, noting it can trigger type 2 diabetes and immune system issues. It can also affect cognitive function, especially learning and memory mechanisms. Try giving your brain a workout when you’re jet-lagged and you know what that’s like.

Here’s where midnight snacking may become a problem. Frequent late eating is one way to disrupt the sleep-wake cycle, along with being exposed to light at night or doing a heavy cardiovascular workout near bedtime, said Colwell.

The new research found this sort of eating may disrupt learning and memory if it happens often enough. “In the experiment, the researchers allowed one group of mice to eat when they normally would, while mice in a second group could only munch during their normal sleep time.

All of the rodents ate the same amount of food and slept the same amount of hours. After a few weeks of this, the mice were given learning tests. It turned out the mice that ate when they should have been sleeping were severely compromised in their ability to remember what they learned.

They also had more trouble recognizing a new object and showed changes in their hippocampus, a brain region involved in learning and memory.”

The researchers say an occasional slip up probably isn’t a big deal. But their findings add to a growing body of evidence that chronically working nights can have serious health effects.

Source: NBC
Photo By Shutterstock

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