Breast cancer is the second-most common cancer in the United States, affecting one in eight women. Given its prevalence, plenty of us are looking for easy preventative steps to lower our cancer risk, like eating healthy and balanced meals.
But while your diet is important for reducing the risk of breast cancer, scientists now believe that when you eat is just as important as what you eat when it comes to breast cancer prevention. That’s where intermittent fasting comes in.
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is the practice of switching between times of eating and times of fasting throughout the day. Typically, fasts are anywhere from 12 to 16 hours followed by eating periods of eight to 12 hours.
The practice is linked to numerous health benefits, including weight loss, cell repair, improved insulin levels, and increased immunity to certain conditions and illnesses.
There are different types of time-restricted fasts depending on a person’s health and goals. One of these is fasting based on circadian rhythms. That means eating only during daylight hours, which is about 10 to 12 hours of the day depending on the time of year, and abstaining from eating at nighttime.
How can intermittent fasting decrease your risk of breast cancer?
Scientists previously discovered that obesity increases the risk of developing at least 13 types of cancer because it messes with the body’s insulin levels and circadian cycles. Postmenopausal women are also at increased risk of breast cancer due to age and changing hormone levels.
In this new animal study published in Nature Communications, researchers discovered that time-restricted fasting based on circadian rhythms had positive effects on insulin levels, restoring them to their correct sensitivity and also reducing tumor size in the process.
Unlike more constraining intermittent fasts, one based around circadian rhythms won’t leave you feeling starved in the process. “Time-restricted eating has a positive effect on metabolic health and does not trigger the hunger and irritability that is associated with long-term fasting or calorie restriction,” said Manasi Das, PhD, postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, San Diego, and lead author of the study.
Even better, these research results appeared without a diet or exercise change to subjects, which means it’s easy to incorporate this technique into your daily life without needing to alter anything else.
While you should consult your doctor before incorporating any health changes to your lifestyle, this circadian rhythm-based intermittent fasting strategy is one to check out when it comes to cancer prevention.