When it comes to cancer prevention, it’s not just what you eat, but when you eat that matters. Specifically, eating an early dinner and/or having at least a two-hour buffer between your meal and when you go to bed may help reduce the risk of breast and prostate cancers, according to a new study.
The research, published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology found that people who eat dinner before 9 p.m. or wait at least two hours before going to bed have an approximately 20 percent lower risk of breast and prostate cancers compared to those who eat after 10 p.m. and go to bed soon after.
Given that breast and prostate cancers are more common among people who work the night shift, the researchers wanted to look into whether mealtime may also have an impact on cancer risk.
“Our study concludes that adherence to diurnal eating patterns is associated with a lower risk of cancer,” ISGlobal researcher Manolis Kogevinas, lead author of the study, said in a statement, adding that the findings “highlight the importance of assessing circadian rhythms in studies on diet and cancer.”
Current cancer-prevention recommendations include plenty of guidance over what to eat, but if the findings from this study are confirmed, it may shift these guidelines to include meal timing, Kogevinas noted in a statement.
“The impact could be especially important in cultures such as those of southern Europe, where people have supper late,” he added.
But why does when we eat matter so much? According to ISGlobal researcher Dora Romaguera, a coauthor of the study, “Further research in humans is needed in order to understand the reasons behind these findings, but everything seems to indicate that the timing of sleep affects our capacity to metabolise food.”
But for now, opt for that early dinner when you have the chance.