Late-night meals may affect memory

Maintaining a normal meal schedule can be tough when you have a hectic life. But new research provides another reason why it's worth the effort. A study at UCLA found that eating at odd times during the day and night may impair memory.

Specifically, the researchers found that mice that ate at random times had weaker memories. This memory lapse occurred even if the late-eating mice got the same amount of sleep as other mice on a normal meal and sleep schedule.

The researchers trained the mice to eat on a different schedule but maintained the amount of time they slept, the amount of food consumed, and made sure they weighed as much as mice who ate on a normal schedule.

The mice’s memories were tested by placing them in a box with two different objects. Then after changing their eating schedules, the mice were placed back in the box with one of the same objects from the previous box and one new object.  The mice that ate at odd times seemed to have a diminished memory, as they explored the new object for a much longer period of time—as if to become reacquainted—than the mice eating on a normal schedule.

In an additional experiment, the mice were conditioned to feel fear in a specific location. When placed back into the fear-inducing location, the mice that ate on a normal schedule were more likely to remember the scary encounter and so would freeze up more often than the mice eating on an irregular schedule.

More research is needed to determine how these results could translate to human behavior.

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