Skin cancer is a very real danger in America, with 1 in 5 Americans developing it during the course of their lifetime. We do everything we can to protect ourselves against skin cancer. We wear sunscreen religiously, cover ourselves up when we’re out in the hot sun and avoid tanning beds like the plague. But there’s one habit that is strangely connected to a higher risk for skin cancer. Do you often succumb to late-night food cravings? You know it’s bad for your weight, but late-night snacking could be even more dangerous than that. Researchers have found that late-night snacking can actually lead to skin cancer. Sounds crazy? They have scientific proof to back it up.
Why Snacking Can Lead To Skin Cancer
The Department of Neuroscience at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas conducted an experiment where they fed rats at abnormal times. For humans, normal food timings are during the day, but for rats, they mostly eat at night. In this experiment, one group of rats were fed only during the daytime (the rat equivalent of late-night snacking for humans), while another group was fed at regular times. At the end of the experiment, they found that the first group of mice showed greater signs of skin damage than the second group who were fed normally. So how did meal timings make them more susceptible to skin damage?
Our skin has a natural circadian rhythm which is based on our regular eating and sleeping patterns. In order to protect itself from the damaging UV rays of the sun, our skin secretes enzymes that can shield it to some extent from damage. However, these enzymes are produced only when they skin’s circadian rhythm is balanced. Late-night snacking puts your circadian rhythm out of whack because it’s abnormal. In the group of mice that were fed at abnormal times, their skin’s ability to produce this protective enzyme was seriously diminished. This meant that when they were exposed to UV rays, their skin wasn’t able to protect itself from damage.
Can This Study Be Applied To Humans?
Human studies have not been conducted as yet, but scientists are fairly confident that humans would react the same way. The most concerning revelation of this study is that late-night snacking can have immediate effects. If you’re up late eating one night and you go sun bathing the next day, you’re likely to face serious sun damage. Sun damage is often a cumulative effect, but late-night snacking could accelerate it. Late-night snacking is unhealthy on all fronts, so it’s probably time you broke that habit. Sticking to normal food timings and eating nutritious food won’t just improve your health from the inside, but it might also protect you from skin cancer.
Foods That Protect You From Skin Cancer
While snacking can increase your chances of getting skin cancer, there are certain foods that can actually protect your skin from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. When you’re building your skin-cancer fighting plate, make sure there’s plenty of orange and green on it. Beta-carotenes are converted into vitamin A in your body and can actually protect your skin from damage. These are the compounds which give certain foods their orange color, so it’s easy to tell which foods contain beta-carotenes. Pumpkin, sweet potatoes and carrots are excellent sources of beta-carotene. The more intense the color of the vegetable, the more beta-carotene it contains. Dark green, leafy vegetables also have important skin protecting qualities. Kale, spinach, beet greens and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli are rich in bioactive substances that reduce your risk for melanoma. If you’re thirsty, switch out your regular beverage for some green tea. Green tea (and especially matcha green tea) contain polyphenols which are powerful antioxidants. These antioxidants have been shown to be very effective against skin cancer.
So if you want to be smart about sun protection, it’s not all just about slathering on sunscreen. A nutritious diet and proper meal timings can go a long way in protecting you and keeping you healthy.