Late night snacking could give you a sunburn

Attention, sunbathers everywhere — it’s time to put away the popcorn. According to a study conducted by the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, midnight snacking could make your skin more susceptible to burn.

“This finding is surprising. I did not think the skin was paying attention to when we are eating,” said Dr. Joseph S. Takahashi, chairman of neuroscience at UT Southwestern Medical Center’s Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute.

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We know drinking on the beach is bad and that some foods can work to soothe certain ailments — but this is an entirely new and frightening possibility. What you’re eating away from the beach could affect how your skin reacts under the sun once you’re there.

Essentially, the late night snacks could be messing with our biological clocks and altering the rate at which certain enzymes — in this case, xeroderma pigmentosum group A, an enzyme that repairs damage from ultraviolet rays — are active in the body.

One group of mice investigated was given food only during daytime hours, while another group was fed during the night. The group that ate when the mice would otherwise be sleeping was more susceptible to damaging ultraviolet rays. Their protective enzyme production had been thrown off course.

It’s a challenging concept to wrap our heads around: Eating after dark makes us more in danger from light. Ultraviolet rays present more of a risk than just an uncomfortable burn. Sunburns, annoying in the moment, could potentially result in deadly outcomes later. Aging, scarring, and even cancer could occur if we aren’t careful with our sun exposure.

Since the study was conducted on mice, further research is necessary to confirm the findings. 

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