If it’s past your bedtime, then its probably best to avoid the fridge.
It has already been proven that eating late at night can has negative effects on your body’s metabolic health from weight gain to an increased risk of diabetes and heart problems.
Now, for the first time, a new study conducted at the University of California, Los Angeles, suggests that late-night eating can cause damage to our brains, too. The research showed that eating food during hours when people are usually asleep can negatively impact the hippocampus – the part of the brain where memories are formed.
“We believe that late-night snacking may affect our learning capabilities by affecting the parts of the brain responsible for learning and memory” Dr. Dawn Loh, a project scientist at the university and lead author of the study. ”The timing of food consumption is what we believe to be the primary cause of the impaired memory that we describe.”
Their findings, published in the journal eLife, demonstrate how important a healthy eating routine is to memory as midnight munching may reduce our ability to learn new things and store memories.
By consuming food at the ‘wrong’ time of day, we cause misalignment between the various clocks in the brain and body. Researchers believe this may be due to reduced levels of a protein called CREB, which is key for your body’s internal clock and your brain’s ability to form memories.
CREB, regulates some genes involved in both the circadian clock and in learning and memory. When this protein is less active, it decreases memory and may play a role in Alzheimer’s disease. It was found that in mice fed at the wrong time, the total activity of CREB was significantly reduced.
“While research on humans is needed to confirm the findings, there has already been some evidence of midnight snacking affecting the human brain” says Dr. Chris Colwell from the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioural Sciences at UCLA.
So while an occasional late night fridge raid might be harmless, new research suggests that making a habit of it may not be the best thing for your brain.
- eLife. “Midnight munchies mangle memory: Eating at the wrong time impairs learning, memory.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 December 2015. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/12/151223141445.htm>.
- Dawn H Loh, Shekib A Jami, Richard E Flores, Danny Truong, Cristina A Ghiani, Thomas J O’Dell, Christopher S Colwell. Misaligned feeding impairs memories. eLife, 2015; 4 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.09460
- Howard, J (2016) “Late night snacking can have a surprising effect on your memory”. Huffington Post. Accessed 10th January 2016 at http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/entry/late-night-snacking-memory-learning_568a9f78e4b06fa68882e0f9?section=australia