In mainstream circles, fasting can at times seem blasphemous. Americans often are victims to the traditions of eating at set times due to breakfast, brunch, mid-afternoon snacks, dinner and late-night snacks (you know, during Netflix). But fasting is highly linked to a variety of health benefits.
We all fast (so long as we sleep). That fast is good for us, so much so that many dieticians recommend skipping breakfast as a way to extend the fast and reap the purported health benefits. One of those benefits just might be decreasing breast cancer recurrence in breast cancer survivors.
According to a new JAMA Oncology study, increasing fasting time at night by more than 13 hours decreases the risk of breast cancer recurrence in women with an early stage of the diseases.
“Our study introduces a novel dietary intervention strategy and indicates that prolonging the length of the nightly fasting interval could be a simple and feasible strategy to reduce breast cancer recurrence,” said lead author Catherine Marinac, doctoral candidate at University of California, San Diego in the US.
This has led to a lot of headlines touting that nightly snacks may lead to increased recurrence. However, I think what might be important here is the actual concept of fasting and its effects on decreasing recurrence.
Read this exact quote from the study:
To our knowledge, epidemiologic data on nightly fasting duration and clinical outcomes are nonexistent. However, there are limited data from small trials in humans suggesting that many types of intermittent fasting regimens positively affect risk factors for poor breast cancer outcomes, such as glucoregulation, inflammation, obesity, and sleep.8 Two analyses have been published of nightly fasting duration and biomarkers of breast cancer risk in women using US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data. In the first analysis, among 2122 women without diabetes mellitus, longer nightly fasting was associated with significant improvements in biomarkers of glycemic control.9 In the second analysis, a longer duration of nightly fasting was associated with significantly lower C-reactive protein (CRP) concentrations in women who eat less than 30% of their total daily energy intake after 5 pm.10 Taken together, the rodent and human data support the hypothesis that a prolonged nightly fasting interval could reduce cancer risk and improve cancer outcomes.
This probably isn’t about “nightly snacking” as much as it is about intermittent fasting. Here’s a great explanation for the intermittent fasting concept found at Authority Nutrition.