Look, no one ever claimed that eating late at night was good for you. It’s bad for digestion, bad for your BMI, and worse still for both when your go-to snack is consumed while you’re still inebriated enough to conveniently pretend it was all a delicious dream smothered in chipotle ranch dressing and wrapped in aluminum foil. But new research suggests late night fridge-raiding can be as damaging to your brain as it is to your body. This appears to be true even if you reach for carrot sticks and hummus, God help us all.
Researchers from the University of California recently tested the theory that eating at times when you should be sleeping causes a deficiency in the hippocampal area of the brain, which controls learning and memory. They conducted the test on mice, feeding some early and some right before sleeping time, before giving them all an electric shock. Researchers found that those who had eaten early were scared, which means they remembered the shock. The late eaters did not show any fear response when threatened with a shock the next day.
“We have provided the first evidence that taking regular meals at the wrong time of day has far-reaching effects for learning and memory,” said Dawn Loh from UCLA. “For the first time, we have shown that simply adjusting the time when food is made available alters the molecular clock in the hippocampus and can alter the cognitive performance of mice,” her colleague Christopher Colwell added.
Further, eating at the wrong time was shown to disturb sleep, meaning you’re more prone to insulin sensitivity and eating unconsciously. So if you do feel absolutely compelled to binge the last remaining episodes of Master of None at 11.30pm on a Sunday night, maybe try to do it while snacking on a nice glass of water.