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Love eating snacks at night? It's in your genes

By Tim Sandle     May 25, 2014 in Science
People who wake in the middle of the night craving a snack are most likely influenced by their genetic make-up, according to a new study.
The study into "night-eating syndrome" relates to research conducted in mice. Night-eating syndrome is an eating disorder characterized by a delayed circadian pattern of food intake. The age of onset is typically in early adulthood (spanning from late teenage years to late twenties) and is often long-lasting.
To determine if the reason for night-eating is genetic, scientists looked at mice bred with a human version of a body-clock gene in place of the mouse one. The discovery was made by conducting tests on mice with two human genes, PER1 and its partner PER2, which has previously been linked to sleep disturbances.
The study found that when the PER1 gene was silenced, the mice ate much earlier than normal ones, when they should have been asleep.
Lead scientist Dr Satchidananda Panda, from the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, told the Daily Mirror: "For a long time, people discounted night eating syndrome as not real. These results in mice suggest that it could actually be a genetic basis for the syndrome. We really never expected that we would be able to decouple the sleep-wake cycle and the eating cycle, especially with a simple mutation. It opens up a whole lot of future questions about how these cycles are regulated."
The findings have been published in the journal published in Cell Reports. The paper is titled "PER1 Phosphorylation Specifies Feeding Rhythm in Mice."
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