A New Twist On Diet and Cancer Risk

Often questions are raised about the role of diet and cancer.  The conversations and the research focus on what we eat or don’t eat, but in a new twist, scientists asked a new type of diet question.  Does when you eat have anything to do with your cancer risk?

Researchers have found evidence that is having an early supper or leaving at least two hours before going to bed are associated with a lower risk of developing breast and prostate cancer!

It was found that when people take their evening meal before 9 p.m. or wait at least two hours before going to sleep they have an approximate 20 percent lower risk of developing breast or prostate cancer compared to people who have supper after 10 p.m. or those who eat and go to bed with an interval that is less than 2 hours.  

The study finding these outcomes was performed at the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), a Centre supported by the "La Caixa" Banking Foundation. This study is believed to be the first to analyze the association between cancer risk and the timing of meals and sleep.

The study becomes more interesting when you take into consideration that both breast and prostate cancers are also among those most strongly associated with night-shift work, circadian disruption and alteration of biological rhythms. 

The Barcelona study included data from 621 men with prostate cancer and 1,205 people with breast cancer, as well as 872 male and 1,321 female controls randomly selected.

The participants, who came from various parts of Spain, were interviewed about their meal timing, sleep habits, and chronotype and completed a questionnaire on their eating habits and adherence to cancer prevention recommendations.

"Our study concludes that adherence to diurnal eating patterns is associated with a lower risk of cancer," explained ISGlobal researcher Manolis Kogevinas, lead author of the study. The findings "highlight the importance of assessing circadian rhythms in studies on diet and cancer," he added.

If the findings are confirmed, Kogevinas noted, "they will have implications for cancer prevention recommendations, which currently do not take meal timing into account." He added: "The impact could be especially important in cultures such as those of southern Europe, where people have supper late."

ISGlobal researcher Dora Romaguera, the last author of the study, said, "Further research in humans is needed to understand the reasons behind these findings, but everything seems to indicate that the timing of sleep affects our capacity to metabolize food. Animal experimental evidence has shown that the timing of food intake has "profound implications for food metabolism and health."

International Journal of Cancer (2018). doi.wiley.com/10.1002/ijc.31649 

Journal reference: International Journal of Cancer 

Joel T. Nowak, MA, MSW wrote this Post.  Joel is the CEO/Executive Director of Cancer ABCs.  He is a Cancer Thriver diagnosed with five primary cancers - Thyroid, Metastatic Prostate, Renal, Melanoma, and the rare cancer Appendiceal cancer.