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Science Says Your Eating Habits Could Actually Make You More Prone To Sunburn

I don't want to be the bearer of bad news, but I'm going to pile on yet another reason to the bottomless basket of reasons for why it's not the best idea to eat late at night. According to new research, it seems that the time of day you choose to eat may actually have a direct correlation to your risk of suffering skin damage from UV rays. So, if you've wondered why you always get sunburned despite protecting yourself with SPF and shady hats, science may just have an answer for you.

At this point, I know it kind of seems like we should just cover our bodies in zinc oxide and never go outside, right? But hear me out.

New research from The O'Donnell Brain Institute and UC Irvine showed through a study with mice that eating at abnormal times disrupts the biological clock of the skin.

This includes the potency of an enzyme that protects against the sun's harmful ultraviolet radiation during the day, putting you at a greater risk for sun damage, and ultimately, skin cancer.

Now, if this sounds a little nutty, keep in mind that the findings were surprising even to the doctors running the study. In a press release, Dr. Joseph S. Takahashi, chairman of neuroscience at UT Southwestern Medical Center's Peter O'Donnell Jr. Brain Institute said that, prior to the study, he had not thought “the skin was paying attention to when we are eating.”


While more extensive research is needed, the findings do seem to show that those who eat late at night might be more likely to get sunburned.

What Happens To Your Body In The Sun

The study looked at research mice who were only given food during the daytime, which is not the normal eating time for mice. They found that the mice experienced more skin damage after being exposed to UVB light during the day than during nighttime.

This was partially because an enzyme called xeroderma pigmentosum group A (XPA), which repairs damaged UV- damaged skin, shifted its cycle so it was less active during the day.

Dr. Takahashi said that if you have a normal eating schedule, you are likely to be better protected from UV rays during the day time.

“If you have an abnormal eating schedule,” he told EurekAlert! Science News, “that could cause a harmful shift in your skin clock, like it did in the mouse.”


Again, more research is needed before we can fully establish the links between eating patterns, UV damage, and how those XPA enzyme cycles are affected.

Me Now That It's Finally Nice Outside

“It's hard to translate these findings to humans at this point,” said Dr. Bogi Andersen of University of California, Irvine, who led the study with Dr. Takahashi. “But it's fascinating to me that the skin would be sensitive to the timing of food intake.”

So put your nighttime snacks away, my friends, and know that I am just as disappointed by these findings as you are.

Oh yeah, and as always, lather on your sunscreen before heading outdoors, no matter what season it is, ya hear? 

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Annakeara Stinson

Staff Writer

Annakeara is a writer and all around barrel of laughs based in Brooklyn.
Annakeara is a writer and all around barrel of laughs based in Brooklyn.

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