Latest News » Late night snacking could impair your memory

A recent study found how habitual late night eating can negatively impact your memory.

Having the occasional midnight snack might ruin your diet, but new research shows that habitual late night eating could be detrimental to your brain health. Researchers from the Semel Institute in the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California Los Angeles found a link between eating at late hours and a deficiency in learning and memory.

The study, which was published in a recent issue of the journal eLife, tested the memory of mice who were regularly fed during their sleeping time and found that they had difficulty recognizing an object that had been shown to them beforehand. A fear conditioning experiment revealed that long-term memory was also affected by the feeding schedule.

This signaled that the feedings impact the hippocampus, an area of the brain that controls memory and learning as well as associating senses and emotional experiences. Typically, nerve impulses are activated along a certain pathway during an experience and are strengthened when that experience is repeated. However, this effect was dulled in the mice when they were fed in the six hours they usually slept. The study pointed out that the feedings seemed to decrease activity in the CREB protein, which plays a role in regulating the circadian clock, memory and learning as well as the onset of Alzheimer's disease.

While these tests have yet to be performed on humans, the study's authors point out that disrupted sleep schedules are already known to affect memory, specifically highlighting a 2014 study that found how shift work impairs cognition. Their research showed how late night feedings interrupted normal sleeping hours, which the mice would sometimes make up for during times they'd usually be active.

"Since many people find themselves working or playing during times when they'd normally be asleep, it is important to know that this could dull some of the functions of the brain," Dawn Lohn, the study's first author, said in a news release.

The UCLA researchers became interested in late night eating because of its association with metabolic health that can lead to a pre-diabetic state. They now conclude that late night snacking can influence the hippocampus and cognitive performance, and it's probably best if humans also stay away from the fridge at night.

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