Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in women. But there are a few factors that can increase or decrease that risk. We have more control over some of those factors than others.
For instance, just getting older increases breast cancer risk. Being overweight takes it up a few notches. Those odds double down after 50 if you carry extra weight after menopause. When you stack a disrupted sleep cycle (thanks, menopause!) on top of the weight issue, you have a recipe for insulin resistance (your body’s diminished ability to turn glucose into energy) that fuels cancer risk.
Now, however, thanks to a new study, researchers have discovered a simple way to improve insulin sensitivity and circadian rhythms, while reducing the risk of breast cancer development, growth and metastasis.
And all you have to do is time your meals.
Intermittent fasting lowers cancer risk
The research, performed at University of California San Diego School of Medicine, Moores Cancer Center and Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System (VASDSH) used female mouse models to mimic the hormonal conditions expected in postmenopausal women.
And just to make sure the test was fair, all the mice were also obese, putting them at extremely high risk of breast cancer development.
They were then separated into three groups:
- Group one enjoyed 24-hour access to food and could eat whenever they wanted.
- A second had food access for eight hours at night when mice are most active (for humans, this would be our daytime).
- Group three consumed an unrestricted but low-fat diet. In other words, they could eat whenever and however much they wanted, but all of the food was low in fat. This strategy was put into the mix because a 2019 study found that a low-fat diet could lower a woman’s chance of dying from breast cancer by 21 percent.
But which group was actually the winner when they went head-to-head?
The mice on time-restricted feeding.
In fact, the results showed that restricting eating to an eight-hour window, when activity is highest, decreased the risk of development, growth and metastasis of breast cancer. And it did it by increasing insulin sensitivity, reducing overall insulin levels, and restoring a healthy sleep rhythm to combat tumors.
All it took was modifying when and for how long mice had access to food.
Putting fasting to work
This isn’t the first time that intermittent fasting has been found to affect cancer risk
A 2020 study found time-restricted eating, along with supplementing vitamin C, to be an effective strategy against even some of the hardest to treat colorectal cancers.
Previous research has also shown that caloric restriction could improve survival against breast cancer.
And researchers say that it’s a great choice because while you can use this intermittent fasting strategy to achieve positive effects for your metabolic health, plus cancer protection, it doesn’t cause the extreme hunger and irritability that comes with long-term fasting or calorie restriction.
It’s also easy to adopt in your own life.
Simply choose an eight-hour window of the day, where you’re the most active, and plan to enjoy all your meals and snacks during this time. It could be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., or noon to 8 p.m.
The point is that it needs to work for your lifestyle.
Since there’s no need to change your diet itself, sticking to this eating schedule can be easy. Eat what you want as long as it’s in your chosen window and, based on these study results, you could enjoy better insulin sensitivity and improved breast cancer protection.
And remember, the less alcohol a woman drinks and the more physically active she is, the less her risk.
Editor’s note: Are you feeling unusually tired? You may think this is normal aging, but the problem could be your master hormone. When it’s not working, your risk of age-related diseases skyrockets. To reset what many call “the trigger for all disease” and live better, longer, click here to discover The Insulin Factor: How to Repair Your Body’s Master Controller and Conquer Chronic Disease!
When — not what — obese mice ate reduced breast cancer risk — ScienceDaily