Eating Too Late Can Raise Your Breast Cancer Risk

Opening the fridge past 8 p.m. may damage more than just your waistline, new research suggests

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Staying healthy and disease-free isn't just about what you eat, but also about when. Eating late at night could actually raise your risk of breast cancer, a new study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention shows.

After looking at the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, researchers in California found that simply eating meals at set times and dining early in the evening reduced women's risk of developing breast cancer. Why? When you eat, your body breaks down the sugars and starches into glucose, which enters the bloodstream. Glucose is then shepherded by insulin to your cells, where it can be used for energy. When your body doesn't produce enough insulin, however, your blood sugar builds up and your levels stay high-something that an abundance of studies have linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. (And read up on 6 Things You Don't Know About Breast Cancer.)

This new study found that women who left more time between their last snack of the day and first meal of the next morning had significantly better control over their blood sugar levels. In fact, for every three additional hours participants went without eating overnight, their blood glucose levels were four percent lower. This benefit sustained regardless of how much the women ate at their last or first meal too.

"The dietary advice for cancer prevention usually focuses on limiting consumption of red meat, alcohol, and refined grains while increasing plant-based foods," said co-author Ruth Patterson, Ph.D., program leader of the cancer prevention program at the University of California, San Diego. "New evidence suggests that when and how often people eat can also play a role in cancer risk."

Since the ideal time to eat breakfast to keep your metabolism revved is within 90 minutes of waking up, aim to put down your fork two hours before bed. And, in a happy coincidence, cutting yourself off around that time is also The Best Time to Eat to Lose Weight.

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