Here is a reason why Indian women go on fasting during festivals or as often as possible in the name of a God or Goddess — it may reduce the risk of cancer among women, says new research. And overnight fasting gives the best results.
The researchers found that a decrease in time spent on eating and an increase in overnight fasting reduces glucose levels and consequently reduce the risk of breast cancer.
“Increasing the duration of overnight fasting could be a novel strategy to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer,” said Catherine Marinac from University of California, San Diego.
The study observed that women who fast for longer periods of time, including overnight, had significantly better control over blood glucose concentrations in their body.
“This is a simple dietary change that, we believe, most women can understand and adopt. It may have a big impact on public health without requiring complicated counting of calories or nutrients,” Marinac said.
The data gleaned from the study showed that for every 3-hour increase in night time fasting was offset by a 4% lower postprandial glucose level, regardless of how much these women ate.
The researchers say that instead of merely giving a dietary advice on stopping red meat, alcohol and refined grains, when and how they eat constitutes a major role in breast cancer prevention.
Co-author Ruth Patterson, also from UC San Diego, says, “New evidence suggests that when and how often people eat can also play a role in cancer risk.”
The women observied for the study reported eating 5 times per day with a mean night time fasting of 12 hours only.
But those who reported longer fast durations also indicated they consumed fewer calories per day, ate fewer calories after 10 p.m. and had eaten fewer times. Throughout the night-time, they never ate anything from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 a.m., but ate anything they wanted for 8 hours in a day.
In fact, fasting proved beneficial in terms of increased insulin sensitivity, improved cholesterol profiles, better cognitive function and, of course, weight loss. Researchers said large-scale clinical trials may further confirm that night time fasting is good for glycemic control and breast cancer risk.
Other co-authors include Loki Natarajan, Dorothy Sears and Sheri Hartman of UC San Diego; and Linda Gallo and Elva Arredondo of San Diego State University. The study received funding from the National Cancer Institute-sponsored Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award, the NCI Centers for Transdisciplinary Research on Energetics and Cancer and philanthropic support from Carol Vassiliadis family.
The study has been published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.