AUG 18, 2017 5:26 PM PDT

Late Night Snacks may Hurt Ability of Skin to Protect Against UV

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

In a new twist on the adage, “you are what you eat,” researchers have found a connection between snacking at night and the skin’s ability to protect itself from harmful radiation. Researchers using a mouse model found that unusual eating times disrupted the natural clock or circadian cycle of the skin, impacting the potency of an enzyme that can protect against the sun’s rays. The work is outlined in the video below and has been published in Cell Reports.

Additional work will be needed to confirm these findings from the O'Donnell Brain Institute and UC Irvine. It suggests, however, that people that tend to eat later at night may be especially susceptible to the negative effects of the sun, like sunburn, aging and skin cancer, commented Dr. Joseph S. Takahashi, the Chairman of Neuroscience at UT Southwestern Medical Center's Peter O'Donnell Jr. Brain Institute.

"This finding is surprising. I did not think the skin was paying attention to when we are eating," said Dr. Takahashi, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator.

When the researchers fed mice at unusual times, in other words during the day, the mice ended up with more skin damage when they were exposed to ultraviolet B (UVB) light in daytime compared to UVB exposure at night. The investigators suggest that’s because xeroderma pigmentosum group A (XPA), an enzyme that fixes skin damaged by UV, became less active in the day after the oddly timed feedings. Mice that only ate during the usual time, in the evening, had normal cycles of XPA enzyme activity and showed less susceptibility to daytime UV rays, however.

"It is likely that if you have a normal eating schedule, then you will be better protected from UV during the daytime," explained Dr. Takahashi. "If you have an abnormal eating schedule, that could cause a harmful shift in your skin clock, like it did in the mouse."

Late night meals may interfere with the ability of the skin to protect against harmful UV rays. /Credit: Carmen Leitch

Other work has shown that the natural daily cycle of the body, the circadian rhythm, has a major influence on the biology of the skin, but little is known about how that influence is regulated. This work shows how important feeding times are to the skin’s daily cycle; it’s already known that meal times influence other body clocks too, such as in the liver. In addition to changing the enzyme of the XPA enzyme, the expression of about ten percent of skin genes was also altered by the disrupted meal times.

More work will be needed of course to confirm these findings in people, something the scientists acknowledge. "It's hard to translate these findings to humans at this point," said Dr. Andersen, Professor of Biological Chemistry. "But it's fascinating to me that the skin would be sensitive to the timing of food intake."

Takahashi is well known for his work on circadian rhythm, especially for identifying the gene that regulates it -- the Clock gene. He is continuing to investigate how eating impacts our daily body clock. His current research is focusing on how food intake affects longevity and aging.

This is a skin cancer cell. / Credit: Knight Cancer Institute

Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! Via UT Southwestern Medical Center, Cell Reports

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on 28 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 60 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
DEC 08, 2019
Cell & Molecular Biology
DEC 08, 2019
Time-Restricted Eating Improves Symptoms of Metabolic Syndrome
Occasional fasting has been linked to a variety of health benefits....
DEC 18, 2019
Drug Discovery & Development
DEC 18, 2019
A tool that simplifies the hunt for cancer drugs
Cells have long been the internal hubs for proteins that hold a wide variety of unique functions. Disorders on how a cell synthesizes a protein can affect ...
DEC 22, 2019
Genetics & Genomics
DEC 22, 2019
New Gene Therapy Uses Exosomes to Reverse Disease
Researchers at Ohio State University have developed a new gene therapy that makes use of exosomes, fluid sacs released in cells, to carry therapeutic tools...
DEC 30, 2019
Cell & Molecular Biology
DEC 30, 2019
Learning More About How Cells Control the Production of Cilia
Most cell types have an appendage that appears to act like a kind of signaling hub called a cilium; it's capable of detecting and sending chemical messages....
JAN 23, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
JAN 23, 2020
Scientists Engineer Venom-Producing Organoids
Snake venom is also a source of therapeutics, and a potential source of new medicines....
FEB 13, 2020
Immunology
FEB 13, 2020
Protein that suppresses immune system linked to lupus
  A study published in Human Immunology has described, for the first time, a link between an immunosuppressive protein on the surface of T cells and t...
Loading Comments...