You may want to think twice before you sit down with a late-night bowl of popcorn, chips or a chocolate bar. Late-night eating may be wreaking havoc on more than just your waistline. This seemingly innocuous habit may be having detrimental effects on your skin as well.
And, there’s more. In a new study researchers found that late-night eating not only damages your skin, they even discovered it can have a profound effect on your genetics. Now, I read a lot of studies every day so I’m rarely surprised about the results, but this one was so exciting that I was nearly jumping out of my seat in my eagerness to share the findings with you.
The study published in the medical journal Cell Reports found that late-night snacking makes our skin more vulnerable to UV damage from the sun or tanning beds. They found that late-night snacking can throw off our skin’s natural circadian rhythms, which are the rhythms that regulate our bodies’ functions on a daily basis. Yes, our skin has circadian rhythms, which may surprise you.
The researchers also found that food intake actually has an impact on the many genes in the skin and how they express themselves. You read that right: your food choices and even the timing of these choices can determine whether genes in your skin turn on or off. We tend to think of our genes as fixed with little input from us. After all, we inherited them from our parents, didn’t we? While this is true, it isn’t the whole story. What we eat and when we eat can actually determine whether genes in our skin turn on or off.
Genes can be activated like on-off switches in our bodies. The field of nutrigenomics (the study of how genes are affected by our food choices) has shown us that we do not have to be prisoners of our genes, waiting for disease-promoting genes to become activated like ticking time bombs inside us. This new study shows that we have even more power over our genes than previously believed.
So, what does this mean to you and how can you benefit from the research? The study found that late-night snacking adversely affects the skin’s sensitivity to UV-B light, making us more vulnerable to skin damage from the sun or tanning beds. By eating earlier in the day we can reverse (at least partially) our skin’s sensitivity to sunlight and help reduce the likelihood of skin damage from the sun and the skin cancer that can be linked to it.
In doing so, we may help to prevent genes for skin cancer from turning on, and that could help us in preventing skin cancer in our lifetime. Of course, there are other risk factors for skin cancer like not exposing ourselves to excessive amounts of sunlight, not smoking and staying active. But it’s good to know that by not eating for a few hours before bed we’re giving our genes a helping hand toward keeping us healthy.
So what do you do when the late-night munchies strike? Here are a few suggestions to help kick the habit:
-Drink a glass of water when you feel hungry in the evening. Often, we mistake thirst for hunger.
-Eat a piece of fruit which digests quickly and offers plentiful amounts of beneficial nutrients instead of heavy desserts or other unhealthy sweets.
-Instead of chips or popcorn, eat some naturally-fermented sauerkraut or pickles. The probiotics will help ensure the rapid digestion of these foods.
-If you simply must have a snack, cut down on the portion size and work from there until you have stopped eating for at least a few hours before bed.