Cancer: It's not always what you eat, but when you eat it

Here’s some disturbing news for those of us who like late dinners:

A new study from Europe, where many cultures also prefer eating dinner later in the evening, finds that cycle increases your risk of both prostate and breast cancer.


The new study found two protective habits:

  • Eat your evening meal before 9 p.m.
  • Do not go to bed for at least two hours after the meal.

Each habit had a 20 percent protective effect on developing either prostate or breast cancer.

The positive effects were especially pronounced among people who prefer morning activity over evening activity, meaning I am really in trouble.

The study was conducted by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health examining the sleeping habits, meals and daily activity patterns of 621 patients with prostate cancer and 1,205 with breast cancer, plus 872 male and 1,321 female control participants.

The precise reasons for such findings remain undetermined for now. But the suspicion growing from animal studies is that the timing of sleep impacts the body’s ability to metabolize foods.

The research is the first to study and analyze the association between cancer risk and the timing of meals and sleep.


Previous studies have focused instead on dietary patterns such as the effects of eating fruit, vegetables and red meat and any associations between food intake and obesity, not the timing of meals.

“Our study concludes that adherence to diurnal eating patterns is associated with a lower risk of cancer,” according to  lead author Manolis Kogevinas.

He added that the results once confirmed have definite implications for cancer prevention recommendations, which don’t take account of meal timing. “The impact,” he said, “could be especially important in cultures such as those of southern Europe where people have supper late.”

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David Strom 6:40 PM | February 29, 2024