Is Midnight Snacking Bad For You?

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Do you stay up late to work or unwind, and find yourself reaching for a midnight snack? A new study has found that eating late could impact your memory and learning.

We've known for a while that midnight snacking is detrimental to weight loss and warding off diabetes. And a new University of California study has found that midnight eating can make it more difficult to learn and recall information.

What did the midnight stacking study find?

The research, published in online journal eLife, analysed a group of mice and their skill in recognizing a new item.

For two weeks, the mice could either eat during their most active period, or when they were usually asleep. Both groups ate the same amount of calories and slept the same amount.

The mice that ate at their normal bedtime were less likely to recall the item and over time their memory was affected.

So how does snacking affect the brain?

The hippocampus in your brain is responsible for memory and recall. A protein named CREB also regulates genes that play a part in memory and the body's circadian rhythms (body clock).

When that protein slows down, memory is affected. And guess what happens when you eat when you should be asleep? Yep, there is less CREB protein available.

Scientist and lead study author Dr. Dawn Loh said , "By consuming food at the 'wrong' time of day, we induce misalignment between the various clocks in the brain and body. This is known to affect physiological processes like metabolism. We demonstrate for the first time that this food-induced misalignment leads to profound impairment of hippocampal-dependent memory as well."

So next time you want to reach for a sneaky snack at midnight, think again.


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