This Is The Best Time To Eat Dinner To Prevent Cancer, According To A New Study

mbg Associate Health Editor By Darcy McDonough, M.S.
mbg Associate Health Editor

Darcy is the associate health editor. She has a master’s degree in nutrition interventions, communication, and behavior change from the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.

Photo by @kkgas

Many people already know that what you eat, and how much, have been linked with cancer risk. But, according to a new study published in the International Journal of Cancer, when you eat may matter, too.

To find this out, researchers inquired about the nightly habits of a group of 1,826 breast and prostate cancer patients and compared them to 2,193 healthy individuals. Individuals who recalled regularly eating dinner before 9 p.m. or at least two hours before going to bed had a 26 percent lower risk of developing prostate cancer and a 16 percent lower risk of developing breast cancer. Meaning: Meal timing had a significant effect on participants' cancer risk.

While it is not fully understood why, researchers think it could have to do with circadian rhythm disruptions. The circadian rhythm is the body’s internal clock that rules the sleep cycle, hormone levels, metabolism, and other critical mechanisms of health. This biological clock is in tune with and set by natural factors like the rising and falling of the sun, but it can be thrown off by irregular sleep patterns, the blue light emitted by our smartphones, and, you guessed it, meal timing.

Previous research has shown that those who eschew the natural sleep-wake cycle of the circadian rhythm, like night-shift workers, have an increased risk for cancer, especially breast and prostate. Eating close to bedtime could have a similar detrimental effect on the circadian rhythm by gearing up the digestive system and interrupting sleep. This study offers further evidence that the circadian rhythm may play a role in cancer development.

Although further research is needed to determine if there really is a strong link between meal timing and cancer risk, it could be one more reason to try out intermittent fasting. This much-buzzed-about practice of extending the time period between meals, typically dinner and breakfast, can keep your mealtimes in check, help naturally reset your circadian rhythm, and has a long list of health benefits. Always check in with your doctor first before making major changes to your dietary habits.

So if you are looking to mitigate your cancer risk—and who isn't?—it might be best to have that antioxidant-filled vegetable-heavy meal and resveratrol-rich glass of red wine before 9 p.m.

Ready to catch up on some zzz's? Check out this sleep doctor's No. 1 tip for a good night's sleep.

And are you ready to learn more about how to unlock the power of food to heal your body, prevent disease & achieve optimal health? Register now for our FREE web class with nutrition expert Kelly LeVeque.

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