Data from observational and interventional studies indicate that breakfast consumption is an important habit for cardiometabolic health while its omission has been associated in meta-analyses with overweight and obesity, risk of CVD, and diabetes mellitus. Similarly, late-night eating has been linked in prospective studies to cardiovascular risk factors such as arterial stiffness, obesity, dyslipidaemia, metabolic syndrome, and to a higher risk of coronary heart disease.
The present study included a total of 103,389 participants (79% women) with a mean baseline age of 43 years. Participants completed on average 5.7 dietary records (SD 3.0) with a maximum of 15 records. The timing and number of meals they consumed was recorded on average 6 times to have the most up to date patterns for analysis. The study had an average follow-up time of about 7 years.
During the study period, there were 2,036 new cases of cardiovascular disease. This broke down as follows:
- 253 strokes
- 765 transient ischemic attack
- 162 myocardial infarctions
- 428 angioplasties
- 89 acute coronary syndromes
- 428 angina pectoris
The researchers observed the following findings associated with meal timings between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m.:
- Delaying the day’s first meal was associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Each additional hour of delay was associated with an 6% increase in cerebrovascular diseases like strokes.
- Eating a last meal of the day after 9 p.m. was associated with a 28% higher risk of cerebrovascular diseases than those who ate before 8 p.m.
- No significant additional risk was associated with the number of times someone ate.
- Each additional hour of nighttime fasting (eating an earlier evening meal rather than delaying breakfast) was associated with a 7% lower risk of cerebrovascular disease.
The researchers added that the differences in negative associations in the timing of the day’s last meal were more significant in women than in men.
The researchers suggest that adopting the habit of eating earlier first and last meals with a longer period of night-time fasting could help to prevent the risk of cardiovascular disease.
A growing body of research suggests that eating first and last meals earlier and having a longer overnight fasting period, may be beneficial.
Next time you are considering skipping breakfast, or on the other hand, eating late at night, these new data give reason to reconsider.