People who eat dinner before 9 p.m. or wait at least two hours before going to sleep have a 20% lower risk of breast and prostate cancer than those who eat after 10 p.m. or go to bed shortly after supper, researchers of the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) found.
A new study by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health is the first to analyse the association between cancer risk and the timing of meals and sleep.
Previous studies of the link between food and cancer have focused on dietary patterns—for example, the effects of eating red meat, fruit and vegetables and the associations between food intake and obesity.
However, little attention has been paid to other factors surrounding the everyday act of eating: the timing of food intake and the activities people do before and after meals.
Recent experimental studies have shown the importance of meal timing and demonstrated the health effects of eating late at night.
Previous research has shown that breast and prostate cancer risk are associated with night-shift work and the disruption of circadian rhythm, or a person’s sleep-wake cycle, Manolis Kogevinas, lead author of the study explained.
The aim of the new study, published in the International Journal of Cancer, was to assess whether meal timing could be associated with risk of breast and prostate cancer, two of the most common cancers worldwide.
Breast and prostate cancers are also among those most strongly associated with night-shift work, circadian disruption and alteration of biological rhythms.
The study assessed each participant’s lifestyle and chronotype (an individual attribute correlating with preference for morning or evening activity).
The study, which formed part of the MCC-Spain project, co-financed by the CIBER of Epidemiology and Public Health (CIBERESP), included data from 621 cases of prostate cancer and 1,205 cases of breast cancer, as well as 872 male and 1,321 female controls selected randomly from primary health centres.
The participants, who represented 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.
In conclusion, this is the first study in humans showing that adherence to a more diurnal eating pattern and specifically a long interval between last meal and sleep is associated with a lower cancer risk. The hypothesis we tested is supported by experimental evidence
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.
A Molecular Link Between Sleep and Liver Fat (29/03/2011)
For more information
International Journal fo Cancer
Effect of mistimed eating patterns on breast and prostate cancer risk (MCC-Spain Study)
Frequency and Circadian Timing of Eating May Influence Biomarkers of Inflammation and Insulin Resistance Associated with Breast Cancer Risk
Barcelona Institute for Global Health
Universitat de Barcelona
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