The study investigated whether or not regularly eating dinner before 9 pm, or at least two hours before going to bed, could significantly lower someone’s risk of developing cancer. To find this out, researchers explored the nightly habits of a group of 1,826 breast and prostate cancer patients and compared them to 2,193 healthy individuals. The results indicated that those who recalled regularly eating dinner before 9pm—or at least two hours before going to bed—had a 26% lower risk of developing prostate cancer and a 16% lower risk of developing breast cancer. Needless to say, meal timing had a significant effect on the cancer risk factor of those participating.
And the why? Well, researchers think it could be to do with disruptions to the circadian rhythm.
Often referred to as the body clock, the circadian rhythms is the cycle that governs when we sleep, rise and eat, whilst regulating many physiological processes. It’s heavily influenced by environmental cues, like sunlight and temperature, and when someone’s circadian rhythm is disrupted, sleeping and eating patterns can be sent into an unpredictable spiral. Ever wondered why jet lag leaves you feeling so terrible? It’s because of the interruption to your natural processes; aka, your circadian rhythm.
And, it isn’t just cancer that a messed-up body clock can influence. A growing body of research is examining the adverse health effects that a stem from a disrupted circadian rhythm—like increased chances of cardiovascular issues, mental health conditions like depression and bipolar, and obesity.
The bad news is, is that we live in a world that is constantly trying to throw off our circadian rhythms. The go, go, go nature of modern society means that our sleeping patterns are way out of whack, usually comprised of late nights and early mornings from Monday to Friday, then late nights and late mornings over the weekend. The blue lights on our phones are working to suppress the production of melatonin, which is wreaking havoc on our sleeping patterns.
In a similar vein, our eating habits have become increasingly irregular. If eating late at night and without adequate time for digestion before going to sleep is a nightmare for your health, maybe now is the time to take up intermittent fasting. Alongside the host of health benefits that it purports, it ultimately extends the time period between meals, which could help to mitigate the development of cancer.