Midnight Snacking May Be Bad for Your Brain
Researchers have found concerning evidence that shows how midnight snacking could contribute to a decline in memory and learning.
Natalie has been writing professionally for about 6 years. After graduating from Ithaca College with a degree in Feature Writing, she snagged a job at PCMag.com where she had the opportunity to review all the latest consumer gadgets. Since then she has become a writer for hire, freelancing for various websites. In her spare time, you may find her riding her motorcycle, reading YA novels, hiking, or playing video games. Follow her on Twitter: @nat_schumaker
Midnight snacking has been linked to numerous health issues from obesity to type-2 diabetes. But Adam Hoffman from the Smithsonian writes on a team of researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles, who have found new evidence showing how the late-night habit can damage the brain, by misaligning your natural sleep patterns and damaging areas that deal with memory and learning.
The team of researchers used two groups of mice to conduct their tests. One group was fed during the day and one was fed at night (keep in mind mice are nocturnal creatures). There was a shift in activity with mice that were fed during the day — their natural day-night tendencies became flipped. The mice became more active during the day and less so at night. The flow of eating was enough to disrupt their natural day-night cycles.
One of the researchers, Christopher Colwell, commented on these results, saying:
“We showed that under these eating conditions, some parts of the body, especially the hippocampus, are completely shifted in their molecular clock. So the hippocampus, the part of the brain which is so essential for learning and memory, is actually following when the food is available.”
The researchers continued their testing to see how the shift affected cognitive process, particularly in learning and memory. The misaligned eaters showed poorer results compared to the natural eaters when it came to learning new tasks and memory-related tests. These results raise questions about how health professionals might treat people with sleep deficiencies.
Colwell said of the results:
“We think that we are uncovering a tool that we can use to either strengthen or weaken the clock, just by controlling when a person eats.”
The researchers plan on continuing their study to investigate the cellular mechanisms that contribute to these changes in misaligned eating.
Read more at the Smithsonian.
Photo Credit: Gabriela Pinto/Flickr
Explore how alcohol affects your brain, from the first sip at the bar to life-long drinking habits.
- Alcohol is the world's most popular drug and has been a part of human culture for at least 9,000 years.
- Alcohol's effects on the brain range from temporarily limiting mental activity to sustained brain damage, depending on levels consumed and frequency of use.
- Understanding how alcohol affects your brain can help you determine what drinking habits are best for you.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx a team of DNA sequencers has figured that out.
- A team at UMass Amherst recently sequenced the genome of the Canadian lynx.
- It's part of a project intending to sequence the genome of every vertebrate in the world.
- Conservationists interested in the Canadian lynx have a new tool to work with.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx, I can now—as of this month—point you directly to the DNA of a Canadian lynx, and say, "That's what makes a lynx a lynx." The genome was sequenced by a team at UMass Amherst, and it's one of 15 animals whose genomes have been sequenced by the Vertebrate Genomes Project, whose stated goal is to sequence the genome of all 66,000 vertebrate species in the world.
Sequencing the genome of a particular species of an animal is important in terms of preserving genetic diversity. Future generations don't necessarily have to worry about our memory of the Canadian Lynx warping the way hearsay warped perception a long time ago.
Artwork: Guillaume le Clerc / Wikimedia Commons
13th-century fantastical depiction of an elephant.
It is easy to see how one can look at 66,000 genomic sequences stored away as being the analogous equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is a potential tool for future conservationists.
But what are the practicalities of sequencing the genome of a lynx beyond engaging with broad bioethical questions? As the animal's habitat shrinks and Earth warms, the Canadian lynx is demonstrating less genetic diversity. Cross-breeding with bobcats in some portions of the lynx's habitat also represents a challenge to the lynx's genetic makeup. The two themselves are also linked: warming climates could drive Canadian lynxes to cross-breed with bobcats.
John Organ, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife units, said to MassLive that the results of the sequencing "can help us look at land conservation strategies to help maintain lynx on the landscape."
What does DNA have to do with land conservation strategies? Consider the fact that the food found in a landscape, the toxins found in a landscape, or the exposure to drugs can have an impact on genetic activity. That potential change can be transmitted down the generative line. If you know exactly how a lynx's DNA is impacted by something, then the environment they occupy can be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the lynx and any other creature that happens to inhabit that particular portion of the earth.
Given that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing protection for the Canadian lynx, a move that caught scientists by surprise, it is worth having as much information on hand as possible for those who have an interest in preserving the health of this creature—all the way down to the building blocks of a lynx's life.
The exploding popularity of the keto diet puts a less used veggie into the spotlight.
- The cauliflower is a vegetable of choice if you're on the keto diet.
- The plant is low in carbs and can replace potatoes, rice and pasta.
- It can be eaten both raw and cooked for different benefits.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.