Late night dinners just happen sometimes. You work late or get caught up in the family fun, and before you know it, it’s nearly bedtime.
However, researchers say you shouldn’t let late dinners turn into a habit.
A new study published in the International Journal of Cancer wanted to research the effects of meal timing. To do so, they studied 1800 people suffering from prostate and breast cancer.
Researchers compared the outcome of these groups with over 2,000 patients without cancer. From this, they noticed something interesting.
People who ate dinner and went to bed a minimum of 2 hours later had a 20 percent decreased risk for prostate and breast cancers. Even better—people who ate dinner before 9 pm and went to bed at least 2 hours later saw a 25 percent decrease.
According to the study’s authors, this result might have something to do with most people’s modern late-night habits.
People spend long periods of the night being awake, which disrupts their natural sleep patterns with artificial light. This, in turn, affects the body’s circadian rhythm, which is like a 24-hour body clock. That disruption combined with late night dinners might have an effect on people’s disease risk.
While studies haven’t proven a direct relationship between circadian rhythm and cancer yet, the evidence is mounting.
The study’s authors cite a 2007 review from the International Agency for Research on Cancer that states, “circadian disruption is ‘probably carcinogenic to humans.’”
Previous studies centered on this topic have focused on the quality and quantity of patients’ diets. However, this study aimed to find out whether the timing of those meals had anything to do with cancer risk as well.
What Happens When You Have Late Night Dinners
Eating late can have multiple effects on a person’s health. According to one report by the Telegraph, various studies have suggested late-night eating can lead to problems like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, increased blood glucose, and even memory problems.
According to the report, one study of over 700 adults showed that eating a late dinner had a negative effect on blood pressure. This effect could increase the risk for heart attack in already at-risk individuals.
Researchers from the Dokuz Eylul University assessed how this meal timing affected patients’ blood pressure overnight. Participants were already known to suffer from hypertension (a very high blood pressure) before the study.
However, researchers found that eating dinner within 2 hours of bedtime had a negative effect on blood pressure. In fact, its effects were worse than the effects of a high salt diet.
In addition, people who eat late tend to make unhealthy food choices, says Livestrong. Many turn to fatty foods with more calories and less nutrition. These foods can cause weight gain in the long term.
The expert advice tends to avoid eating late night dinners or even snacking. That coupled with healthy, balanced choices will promote overall healthy eating, including a decreased cancer risk.
The Research Continues
While several studies have delved into similar topics, the research isn’t conclusive. Dr. Manolis Kogevinas, one of the study’s authors, says they need to research other populations, reports CNN.
Researchers performed this study in Spain, so research on late-night eating needs to prove the same results in other cultures too.
For now, people shouldn’t worry too much. Following healthy eating and sleeping guidelines will benefit a person, regardless of this study. So, people should focus on committing to a regular eating and sleeping schedule—and keeping the body clock on rhythm.