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Midnight Snacks Are Bad for the Heart, According to the Fruit Fly

Mar 15, 2015 08:28 PM EDT
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They may be tiny, but fruit flies actually sleep for up to half their short adult lives. Now, researchers are finding that access to the occasional midnight snack may actually disrupt this important rest cycle, potentially harming their tiny little hearts.

According to researchers, fruit flies are traditionally little balls of energy, walking and winging around for 12 hours straight in search of food without rest. That's why experts think that a period of inactivity for more than five minutes is actually them bedding down, and this "sleep" period can last for the remainder of a day.

Like us, a powerful jolt of caffeine can help keep them awake, and also like us, only loud noises or physical disturbances can wake them from their slumbers. Past research has also revealed that various gene expression determines how harmful inadequate sleep can be to a fly's health, just like is commonly seen in humans. This, it is argued, make them ideal study subjects for powerful sleep-related influences on even human health.

And when you live the fast and hard 40 to 50 day lifespan of a fruit fly, the effects of inadequate sleep are felt pretty severely. This is what researchers from The Salk Institute for Biological Studies and San Diego State University were looking for when they recently exposed groups of fruit flies to two conditions: one where food was always available, and one where they were restricted to when they could feed.

The results were recently published in the journal Science, and detail how limiting when you eat can help save your heart.

"We detected improved sleep, prevention of body weight gain, and deceleration of cardiac aging under [time restricted feeding], even when caloric intake and activity were unchanged," the researchers reported.

This essentially means that even if you eat the same amount of food in a day, when you eat it really does matter. Late night snacks, it seems, can disrupt natural sleep cycles an lead to unforeseen consequences. So the next time you see that bag of popcorn or a Twinkie sitting by you nightstand, resist the temptation. Your body will thank you for it.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

- follow Brian on Twitter @BS_ButNoBS

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