Center for Environmental Therapeutics

Can the timing of your meals affect development of cancer?

Mealtime and Cancer

It is now widely accepted that what you eat may help your body resist the development of cancer. For example, proponents claim that eating a diet rich in antioxidants may help strengthen your body’s immune system. But can the timing of your meals have a similar impact? According to a rather complex study by French researchers, reported in the journal, Cancer Research, it may indeed.

The French scientists studied the growth of pancreatic tumors in mice. The control or unregulated group of mice was given access to food on an unrestricted schedule; the experimental mice, or meal timed, group was given access to food only at specific intervals during daylight periods. Researchers reported that the tumors grew almost twice as fast in the control mice as compared to those in the meal timed group. Based on DNA micro-array analysis and other data, the investigators also concluded that the suppressive effect of meal timing was related to increased activity of specific genes, such as tumor suppressor genes. The researchers suggested that this effect is related to reinforcement of circadian rhythms in the mice by meal timing.

The study grew, in part, out of observations that employees on a work schedule that is outside of normal hours (shift work) tend to show an increased risk of developing breast, colon, or prostate cancer. Although more research needs to be done, the French study is intriguing.