I spend much of my clinical time talking to patients about nutrition and helping them choose what to eat. Lately, he conversation on eating has shifted a bit not only on what to eat but also on when to eat. Here’s the deal; it turns out that the earlier you eat your last meal, the less likely you will get prostate cancer (or breast cancer if you are a woman) based on this study.
- Case-controlled based study conducted in 12 Spanish regions from 2008–2013
- 1,738 breast and 1,112 prostate incident cancer cases
- People working night-shift (which increases prostate and breast cancer risk) were excluded from the study to control for the possibility of night shift work being the cause of cancer and not nighttime eating
- CONCLUSION: Those who ate their last meal of the day before 9 p.m. was found to have a 20% lower risk of breast and prostate cancers compared to those who ate after 10 p.m. or went to bed right after dinner.
My Thoughts on Nightime Eating and Prostate Cancer
This is not the first study suggesting against late-night eating for disease prevention. In a group of over four hundred overweight participants, late eaters had a more difficult time losing weight than early eaters despite having similar age, appetite, hormone values, food intake, sleep duration, etc. Another study observed that those who ate late at night had a 55% higher risk of heart disease compared to early eaters. Interestingly, in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which I also trained in, digestion is a yang activity, and nighttime is yin – doing a yang activity doing yin time contributes to disease in TCM. The bad effects of eating late is an inconvenient truth since it’s sometimes unavoidable, but let me share some practical advice on this with you.
Holistic but Realistic Tips on Nighttime Eating to prevent Prostate Cancer.
- Do as many other practices to lower your risk of prostate cancer like physical exercise, good sleep habits, and good nutraceuticals.
- Life happens. Sometimes is a toss-up between coming home late from work and not eating or having a meal with your family even though it’s 10 pm. I would opt to eat with my family, eat light and not eat again for 12 to 16 hours later (intermittent fasting). Implement this approach with late-night holiday dinners – it’s OK to eat late, but practice the other protective things too.
- Eat less protein at night and more carbs. Yeah, I know this is tough to do at a steakhouse and anti-paleo, but here’s the story; protein gives you energy, carbs have a calming effect by secreting more serotonin, a precursor to the sleep hormone melatonin. Now, if you eat too many carbs, especially processed carbs (i.e., bread, pasta, etc.), you will have a “carb hangover” the following day – that awful, dragging headache feeling after a night of drinking. Eat small portions of whole carbs like sweet potato, rice, etc.
- Get to bed early. The longer you’re up, the more you will want to eat.
- Take the dietary supplement 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) if you crave food at night. Tryptophan is an amino acid precursor to serotonin, and it has been my clinical experience that it reduces cravings at night. There might be some sleep benefits there as well.
You only get one shot at living your best life. You don’t always have to like doing the right things to keep you well and cancer-free – do them anyway. Don’t eat after 8 pm most days of the week. Change is good. Enjoy the benefits. Trust the process. Make nighttime eating a “once-in-a-while” event, not an every night practice. Maybe you will avoid a prostate cancer diagnosis by doing so.
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