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Extended night fasts lower the risk of breast cancer
Breast cancer……..it’s a concern for every women.
The media focus, is typically on, detecting it early – but what can you do to prevent it. Or if you’ve already detected it, STOP it in it’s tracks ?
This was the question on the mind of a group of researchers based in San Diego.
Eating “healthy” must be the answer
But, despite being something that intuitively makes sense, it is actually quite hard to test this scientifically.
Although the stats on breast cancer are frightening, most women DO NOT HAVE THE PROBLEM. This means to actually track, whether something does/does not make a difference, requires you keep tabs ON AN ENORMOUS number of women, for a very long time.
It can be done.
But, it is expensive and messy.
So many OTHER variables could be impacting the result.
Testing it out
Our team, decided to try a slightly different approach, instead of tracking what happened in healthy ladies, they opted to look at what happened in ladies, with breast cancer.
It reduces the need to track GAZILLIONS of women, but it is still a little messy.
Because, breast cancer comes in different flavours.
But it is far more do-able…..
So the WHEL (Women’s healthy Eating and Living study) was born. Ladies with a diagnosis of early-stage invasive breast cancer, from several clinics, were invited to participate. Enrolments took place between 1 March 1995 and 3 May 2007. The participants completed 24 hour dietary recalls at the start of the study, 1 year later and 4 years later.
The questions asked extended beyond, what the ladies were eating, to include….
How much and when.
Ultimately the team had 25 325 dietary recalls, from 2413 ladies.
Across the years
The team then kept tabs on their overall health, both my accessing their medical records, death records and active surveillance.
They’ve managed to keep track of these ladies, on average, for 11.4 years
So what happened…………..
“Healthy eating” made no difference, to what happened.
NOTE : Healthy eating was defined as a diet with very high vegetables, fruit and fibre and low fat. Here is the reference, showing this data.
So it is a case of, EAT, DRINK and be MERRY ?
No. When they analysed the data, from the perspective of how much and when………….a very interesting pattern, emerged.
Ladies who had longer night fasts, were A LOT, better off…..
Longer night fasts
The sweet spot, seemed to be fasting for at least 13 hours.
Ladies who fasted for less than 13 hours, were 36 % more likely to have their breast cancer, recur.
NOTE : This finding was not related to BMI (weight) or CRP (inflammation) levels
Measuring your nightly fast
What this would look like…
Well, if you eat dinner at 6 pm and eat breakfast at 7 am, this would give you a 13 hour night fast.
This behaviour would be PROTECTIVE.
However, if you eat your dinner at 8 pm and then have breakfast at 8 am, the next day, your night fast, would be 12 hours. This would be under the 13 hour window….
Marginally increasing the risk.
The risk is also up, if you enjoy late night dinners, skip breakfast and then have a mid-morning snack, because coffee, with a biscuit, or two, at 10.30 am, when you finished dinner at 11 pm, leaves you with a fasting window of 11 hours and 30 minutes.
What is the biological driver ?
This study, can only report the pattern…… it, is not designed to explain the why ?
But we do have hints…………..
Ladies in the WHEL study, with longer fasting durations, had lower HbA1c levels i.e. they had better sugar control. Since many tumours, run on sugar, the improved sugar control, might leave cancerous cells, HUNGRY.
And less capable of growing like crazy !
The other thing, that longer nightly fasting did, is it increased sleep duration. There is a plethora of data, both from animal and human studies, suggesting melatonin, your night valet, plays a pivotal role, in “fighting” cancer.
So the take home message………………
WATCH when you eat.
“Eating” food, whether it be healthy or not so healthy, is STRESS FUL. To create BETTER BODY CHEMISTRY, you need to give, your digestive tract, time off.
You want to decrease the risk of breast cancer, not just detect it early, since being exposed to light at night, ups the risk, be sure to sleep IN THE DARK.
Anatomically speaking, the underarm is close to the breast, so your underarm cosmetic can drift downwards – putting you at an increased risk of breast cancer.
Tumour talk turns nasty in breast cancer cells, when women with breast cancer, sip on soy shakes.