Ask Dr. Nandi: Eating dinner earlier could reduce cancer risk

Ask Dr. Nandi: Eating dinner earlier could reduce cancer risk
Posted at 2:53 PM, Jul 20, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-20 15:27:10-04

Are you a late-night eater? If so, the timing of your evening meal could raise your risk for developing cancer. That’s according to a new study by Spanish researchers.

Question: How late is too late to eat?

The answer may surprise a lot of people because who would think “when” we eat could play a role in getting cancer.  Now the study was done at the Barcelona Institute for Global Health in Spain.  And researchers found if you eat dinner after 10 pm or eat too close before heading to bed that you could increase your risk of developing two of the largest cancer killers of men and women.

Question:  What types of cancer are we talking about?

The researchers focused on breast and prostate cancer.  And what they did was have over 1,800 patients with these cancers, along with over 2,000 people without either disease answer questionnaires that focused on eating and sleeping habits.   And they found those who ate before 9 pm or at least 2 hours before going to bed had a 20 percent less risk of getting breast or prostate cancer when compared to those who ate late or climbed into bed soon after.  

 Question: Why would eating late be tied to cancer?

Well, the scientists are not really sure but the research is pointing towards the possibility that the timing of sleep is affecting the body’s ability to metabolize food.   Also our 24-hour clock, our circadian rhythm has been established since the caveman days, and it tells us when to eat and when to sleep.  But modern living has been changing that especially for those who work late at night. And past research has linked disrupting this internal clock to tumor growth.  But cancer is very complex so we certainly need more research to understand why this could be happening.  But I would recommend in the meantime to eat dinner early and also follow healthy lifestyle guidelines like getting enough exercise, maintaining a healthy weight and eating plenty of nutrient-dense foods like whole grains and plant-based foods.